Friday, August 05, 2011

The Haka goes to America

I learned from my Anthro 1010 textbook that there is a high school in Texas (Euless Trinity High) that has a high number of Pacific Islanders so they perform the Haka (not clear if it is supposed to be entirely like the Maori Haka, or just based on it, but it looks a lot like it.)  You can watch a video of it here. The comments are interesting, if often intemperate. Some say they should not be doing the Maori Haka but should get their own war dance. Others say they are doing it wrong or poorly.  They comment on the lack of passion and poor movements, and a number of writer mock the athletes for doing it with helmets on, and for facing their fans rather than the opposition.  But someone wrote in explaining the shift in practice:

There are very strict rules for football in Texas schools. Players on the field once pre-game procedures begin must be wearing their helmets. Players are not allowed to deliberately attempt to intimidate the other team. This is why they have on helmets. This is why they are facing the crowd. It is the way they are able to perform this Haka. Euless Trinity has a very high number of pacific islander students. And yes, some are even Maori.
The haka does violate a spirit of sportsmanship, in a sense, especially with the explanation that it is a "war dance" (some note that it was originally a celebration of life, composed by a Maori leader who had fooled his enemies by hiding underground, but it still is used as a war dance). It will be interesting to see if its use expands, and if new, similar war dances, are created. After all, it is a small step from small rituals like "Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose" or Notre Dame's prayer on the field before kickoff to the haka.

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