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Mocked haka proved a turning point

Published: 7:13PM Friday May 01, 2009 Source: ONE News

It was 30 years to the day on Friday since a Maori and Pacific Island group called He Taua took exception to fellow engineering students for making fun of the haka to celebrate capping week.
He Taua was the first group to take action and it paved the way for more protests by Maori over Treaty of Waitangi issues.
It is a huge step down memory lane for members of the group He Taua who went back to Auckland University remembering the events of May 1 1979. 

Thirty years ago, Hone Harawira was one of those who took offence at traditional capping stunts by engineering students. 

"You could tell hori jokes and get away with it, but after He Taua those jokes ended," says Harawira.

Students in grass skirts took the mickey out of Polynesian culture by painting male genitals on their bodies and performing the haka with sexual gestures.

Today's generation of engineering students can turn on a good haka, but in 1979 they turned the haka into a joke.
Maori and Pacific students spent 10 years trying to change things and their protest inevitably ended in a punch-up.

"At time we had pakeha who said we can do what we like and no one is going to stop us," says Hilda Halkyard Harawira from He Taua.

Eight of He Taua were found guilty in a big case which raised the ugly issue of racism.

"For me it was a healing event because for once we can all talk about it and move forward," says Auckland University Dean of Engineering Michael Davies.

Thirty years on things have certainly changed. The Engineering Faculty has gone from one Maori student to 170 Maori and Pacific Islanders.