In mid April 2007, a delegation of over 50 people from Tokomaru Bay
visited the Museum in Chicago
to honor the 125th anniversary of the first opening of Ruatepupuke II at
Tokomaru in 1881.
Formal welcomes on a marae in New Zealand are called powhiri (or
pohiri), a word that roughly translates as “welcome ceremony.”
During a powhiri, those hosting the event (that is, the tangata whenua)
greet those coming from elsewhere (manuhiri).
To do so, hosts and visitors convene on opposite sides of the open space
(called Te Maraenui Atea o Tumatauenga, “The Great Marae of Tumatauenga,
Guardian of War”) in front of the host’s meeting house. This open space
is the most sacred place on a marae.
During the 2007 visit from Tokomaru Bay, The Field Museum adopted some of the general
formalities of welcome widely used in New Zealand for greeting visitors
from afar. However, since none of those representing the Museum were
Maori, we had to adapt the rules of encounter in the spirit of The City of
Quite early in the planning process for the event, we decided that the speakers
on our side of the marae at the powhiri should be a sampling of the
multicultural realities of Chicago.
Thus the first to speak on our behalf was John McCarter, President of The Field
Museum. After his words of welcome, Lionel Dunn, who is a member of the Museum’s
security staff, played the saxophone, something he does movingly and
well. Then Jan Lorys, Director of Polish Museum, spoke. He, too,
was subsequently “supported,” as they say in New Zealand, by another song, this
time one in Polish sung by Aleksandra Podowski, a young woman from the Kolbe
School of Polish Language.
The third speaker was Laura Washington from Museum’s Board of Trustees.
Afterwards she was supported by a spiritual sung by Janine Weathersby, also
from the Museum’s security staff.
and last speaker was Joe Podlasek, Executive Director of the American Indian
Center in Chicago.
He was afterwards supported by a Native American dance performance by the
Center’s Jingle Dress Dancers and Drum.
After those on our side were done, four speakers from Tokomaru Bay
stood up in turn to match our welcoming speeches. They spoke to us mostly
in Maori, as is customary, and they were supported by waiata (songs)
done in traditional Maori fashion.
Afterwards, The Anthropology Alliance gave all our overseas visitors a
sumptuous and tasty dinner with catered dishes representing a sampling of Chicago's culinary ethnic