There are all kinds of Haka! Some Haka are performed by men, women and even children. They were used at special occasions, especially as a welcome.
The most commonly known Haka is the ‘Ka Mate’ Haka – the Haka used by the All Blacks and is known all around the world. A war cry and dance used to show strength and strike fear into those it’s aimed at.
The ‘Ka Mate’ was composed by the great Chief Te Rauparaha of the Ngati Toa tribe. Son of Warawera of Ngati Toa, his mother Parekowhatu was from the Ngati Rawkawa. Te Rauparaha was not born into leadership but due to his aggressive and strong nature, he became one of the Chiefs of the Ngati Toa.
During the 1820’s, the Waikato was rich with many resources. Great battles were fought over the land between the tribes and eventually the Ngati Toa fled the area, settling on Kapiti Island.
It was during one of these battles that the Ngati Toa stormed the village of the Ngati Maniapoto. Losing the battle, Te Rauparaha hid in one of the underground food storage areas. Believing it was safe to come out, he came face to face with one of the Ngati Maniapoto Chiefs, Te Whareangi.
Te Rauparaha broke out into the following chant:
Ka mate, ka mate! ka ora! ka ora!
Ka mate! ka mate! ka ora! ka ora!
Tēnei te tangata pūhuruhuru
Nāna nei i tiki mai whakawhiti te rā
Ā, upane! ka upane!
Ā, upane, ka upane, whiti te ra!
Tis death, tis death
Tis life, tis life
This is the hairy man [Te Whareangi]
Who brought the sun and caused it to shine
A step upward, another step upward
A step upward, another – the sun shines
Chief Te Whareangi spared his life.
Te Rauparaha became one of the most aggressive and powerful Maori Chiefs of his time. He led the massacres at Kaiapoi (1831) and Akaroa (1830), and the Wairau Massacre (1843) which began with an attempt to arrest him.
He was successfully arrested and imprisoned in 1846 in Wellington. As part of his release two years later, he handed over Wairau. He died at Otaki just a year later.
*image courtesy of http://www.janesoceania.com*