How dare you bastardise our culture

By Te Ringahuia Hata


Māori women confronting racism in the 70’s – Hilda Halkyard-Harawira

In 1974, Hilda Halkyard faced racism head on at a time when discrimination against Māori in the cities was rife especially within the Auckland University campus.

“How dare you bastardise our culture, stop it now!” – Hilda said in this photo captured by someone that ended up in the Craccum.

A few years later, May 1st, 1979 a Maori and Pacific Island group called He Tauā took exception to engineering students for making fun of the haka to celebrate capping week.

The incident ended in an altercation on campus and a court case with eight of He Tauā members charged with assault. That raised the issues of racism against Māori in the 70s and the role of the haka in Māoridom. Drunken Pākeha 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.

The engineering students ignored 25 years of criticism and submissions. “At the 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.

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 never happened again and this incident that took place in 1979 sent a message throughout the Pākeha students on campus who would never exploit Māori culture or the haka again. Janet Roth, President of Auckland University Students Association was dumped by her colleagues for challenging the cultural violence of the Engineering students.

As Maya Angelou states “How important it is for us to recognize and celebrate our heroes and she-roes!”.

Hilda is fearless, gutsy and a phenomenal wahine Māori I have had the privilege of watching and learning from. She is a legend.

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