The haka has become a trademark of one of the world’s most widely known rugby teams, the New Zealand All Blacks. A well performed haka before a crucial game can still stir the crowds into a frenzy and unsettle the toughest opponents. In my research I have investigated how the haka originated, how the haka has progressed throughout New Zealand rugby history, and New Zealand’s opinion about the haka as a sports routine. The intriguing history of the well known Ka mate haka dates back to the early nineteenth century. Composed by a Maori chief, Te Rauparaha, it tells the simple story of “the chief’s pursuit and escape from members of opposing tribes, his fear of being captured, and the exhilaration of his ultimate survival.” Te Rauparaha was visiting the central North Island tribe Tuwharetoa. A hapu, or sub-tribe of Tuwharetoa were seeking to kill Te Rauparaha, as vengeance for a raid he once led some years prior, wiping out a section of their people. Te Rauparaha was sent by the paramount chief of Tuwharetoa to be protected by another hapu under the chieftainship of Wharerangi. Reluctantly, Wharerangi hid Te Rauparaha in a kumara pit. The chanted karakia (incantations) by the pursuing warriors were intended to locate Te Rauparaha, however, Te Rangikoaea, the wife of Wharerangi, neutralized the incantations by positioning herself over the kumara pit. In Maori legend, female sexuality is very potent with the ability to defeat a male and neutralize the power of incantation. It seems that reference to the “hairy man” in the line “...There stands the hairy man who will cause the sun to shine...” could be a tribute to the chief Wharerangi. With his heart thundering in his chest as the pursuers neared the pit, Te Rauparaha muttered the words of the famous Ka mate haka to himself: Ka mate! Ka mate!
Ka ora! Ka ora!
Ka mate! Ka mate!
Ka ora! Ka ora!
Tenei te tangata puhuruhuru
Nananei i tiki mai, whakawhiti te ra!
A, hupane! A, kaupane!
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