Auckland Domain and New Zealand’s National Museum, Fall 2018

Updated: Nov 17, 2018

Hello Moms and Dads,

Our first day of orientation saw us hit the Auckland Domain and New Zealand’s National Museum. In front of a wall-sized map of Oceania, I discussed the marvel of Polynesian voyaging and the settlement of the remotest island chains in the world. We reflected on just how much water we flew over to get to New Zealand and how peoples in wood-carved outriggers traversed that great expanse to reach these remote volcanic isles.

When early 20th century anthologists tackled the problem, they sided with the prevailing notion that 2000-year-old technology was wholly inadequate to purposefully discover islands 2500 miles away. As such, what I call Gilligan’s theory took hold. This amounted to the idea that: “the weather started getting rough and their tiny ships were tossed . . .” or accidental settlement of islands by families blown into friendly currents and washing up on distant shores weeks later.

In the 1970’s, one of the professors in my anthropology department at the University of Hawaii orchestrated the building of a sailing canoe modelled after missionary drawings. He recruited a navigator versed in the old ways from Micronesia and successfully put together a Hawaiian crew. Using knowledge of the stars, wind directions, local birds, and salinity levels, they travelled 2000 miles to Tahiti demonstrating that these early mariners could indeed cross oceans with intent and conquer new lands. This helped issue in a cultural renaissance for island peoples and a newfound pride in their ancestry.

Following our exploration of the Maori exhibit, we headed upstairs to the performance hall. A Maori renaissance crew dressed in traditional attire broke into song. Next, the men sporting face and arm tattoos, demonstrated the weapons used some seven-hundred-years-ago in the wars between the tribes. One would not want to be anywhere near a patu and taiaha the in the hands of Maori warrior.

The performers finished with a high-spirited rendition of the haka. Walls shook and hearts pounded as the passion of a people energized by sea, land, and ancestry delivered their signature war dance.

From the museum we headed thirty-minutes up the coastline to St. Heliers beach. Toe-tempting white sand beckoned and leisurely walks ensued. As the others strolled, Gabe and Mason zipped by on the latest trend to hit Auckland—LIME scooters. Capitalizing on the same battery technology that launched the drone craze two years ago, riders old and young zip by at 15mph. The scooters are in the honeymoon period of no regulation until the first grandmother is run-down on a sidewalk.

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