All the Fulbright Scholars (and their families) were welcomed by the Maori at the Waiwheti Marae (gathering place) which is just outside Wellington. Emily has done a great blog post describing this event. Here is a link to it. The only thing I can add is a few photos and descriptions of the overnight and events.
This is the inside of the Marae. The custom is that if you sleep in the Marae you become part of the Maori group and are welcome back anytime. So beds were all laid out. We had a number of ceremonies and talks in this space, but eventually it was bedtime. It was a big Fulbright Slumber Party. Lots of snoring and kids whispering.
On a tour of the area, all the Fulbright Scholars learned how to paddle a war canoe. This man is a leader in the community and he is also the leader of the canoes. I am unclear as to how formidable this scholar group was as warrior canoeists.
Also, while we were touring the area we stumbled on these men practicing for an upcoming contest. They used us as a test audience. This is a “dance” where visitors (us) show up to a village. He, the host and leader of the village, approaches you as a warrior and lays a branch down on the ground (you can see it in his pocket). He is asking if you come in peace. My only advice is that if this happens to you, make sure you, as visitor, pick up the branch with your RIGHT hand and you have a gift to set down where it was. If you pick it up with your left hand, you have basically declared that you are not there in peace. Not smart. It is clear by his earlier powerful dance as he approached you that you, especially as a Fulbright Scholar, don’t stand a chance and you will immediately get very hurt.
Emily and I were very moved by the two days and sleep-over. We have struggled how to convey it. Very complex, very rich, and wonderful people. Everything always comes down to people and community. We were glad to be a part of this one.