Wellington is the capital of NZ. It's located at the southern end of the North Island, and has a population of several hundred thousand people. It is the home of many organizations as well as the government itself.
CANADIAN HIGH COMMISSION
Our first stop on this very busy day was to Canada's High Commission (a.k.a. embassy). There, we were given a briefing by the Acting High Commissioner, Pamela Deacon. She talked about what a High Commission does, and gave an overview of Canada-NZ relations. She also talked about the recent "Eskimo lolly" controversy.The High Commissioner and her staff did much of the work to set up meetings and events for us during our two-day stop in Wellington, so before leaving, we presented her with a wall hanging for her office, a pair of hand-made mitts for herself, and a package of information materials about Inuit and Nunavut for the High Commission's library.
TE PAPA NATIONAL MUSEUM
After the High Commission, we walked over to the Te Papa national museum. We expected to get a regular tour, but instead had an altogether - and unforgettable - experience. It began when we were met at the door by a Maori woman, Hema Tehara, who is in charge of all the protocols associated with the handling, storage, and presentation of Maori artifacts and belongings. She guided us into the non-public storage and work areas where thousands of artifacts are stored and maintained. There we received a formal welcoming from Arapata Hakiwai, Director Matauranga Maori (a.k.a. the Maori exhibits), and his staff. It was our first experience of the Maori welcoming ritual and it had a huge emotional impact on all of us. Our hosts spoke about how the spirits of their Maori ancestors were present amidst the many, many artifacts being stored at the museum and many students said they could feel that as well. It was very emotional, and touched us all very deeply.
We were then given a group tour of the various types of artifacts and other materials that the museum has in its collections: it ranged from spears and clubs, to skirts and cloaks made from flax and/or feathers. Some of the clothing items were spectacular in their consruction and beautiful design. (We weren't allowed to take photos in this area, so Ithe following images from Te Papa's web site will provide a glimpse into the kind of things we saw) Before leaving, our hosts put on a lunch for us, and we ended our visit with a presentation of gifts to express our deep thanks for an unforgettable introduction to Maori history and culture.
TE PUNI KOKIRI
After the museum, we went over to Te Puni Kokiri (a.k.a., the Ministry of Maori Affairs), where we met with staff for about two hours. Like all meetings, it began with an exchange of speeches and songs, first from the hosts, and then from ourselves as guests. The students then put on a cultural presentation. The session ended with several of the government officials giving presentations about various aspects of the Department's work.
Our last event of the long day was definitely worth the wait: it was a visit to the local marae (Maori meeting place). We arrived at 6:30 PM and were sung into the building by an Elder. We took our places across the room from 50-60 people of all ages who were there for their regular Monday evening dinner and cultural practice. This was the most formal of all the welcomings we had experienced to date, with several speeches being made to greet us. Their song was sung by the whole crowd, and it was AMAZING!! It was our first experience of the famous Maori haka, where the singers and dancers make loud sounds and intimidating faces to frighten the enemy into surrendering etc. It was unbelievably powerful in its effect.