The Ngāti Toa Rangatira iwi has condemned the use of its haka, Ka Mate, to promote anti-vaccine messages and has issued a caution to those using it.
Under the Haka Ka Mate Attribution Act 2014 the iwi can prosecute offenders for performing the haka if it deems the performance offensive.
"They will be hit hard," says Ngāti Toa historian Kahu Ropata, who is part of reviving the history and culture of the haka.
The New Zealand government recognises in the act that Ngāti Toa is the legal custodian of Ka Mate, which has become a national symbol, and took world rugby by storm when it was famously performed by the All Blacks.
“If there's a situation about degrading or using it inappropriately, then those people can be punished by the courts,” Ropata says. “For me, everyone should learn about the ‘tikanga’ of this haka,” he says.
International property rights
The cautionary response by the iwi authority, Te Rūnanga O Toa Rangatira, came after suggestions by members of the public that Destiny Church leader Brian Tamaki is to teach the haka for future rallies against the Covid-19 mandate.
The Haka Ka Mate Attribution Act 2014 gives Ngāti Toa authority over the words (composed by war leader ancestor Te Rauparaha), the actions and the choreography of the haka. This protection applies whether the whole of the haka is used, or only a part.
National Māori Authority chairman Mathew Tukaki says, “What it means is that Ngāti Toa can have the actual property rights to their own tikanga.”
“Ultimately, ownership lies in the hands of Ngāti Toa.”
Last year, a group of UK nurses apologised for degrading the meaning of the haka Ka Mate - 'it is death' - for a Covid-19 promotion.
Overseas misuse isn’t new to Ngāti Toa. But Tukaki thinks there is a way where the intellectual property framework could be protected in this context.
New Zealand is working with the UK on a free-trade agreement and indigenous issues will be included.
“What that means, quite possibly, is our intellectual property rights that we might enjoy at home, which is the protection of Te Reo Māori - our language, our culture, our tikanga and so on, might be enforceable now in foreign courts,” Tukaki says.