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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 69

The War Dance

The War Dance.

The Maori war dance, whice was to have taken place on Thursday, but which could not be carried out owing to the spectators crowding in on the natives, was given to-day day at what are known as the Bear Gardens, at the North Shore. A portion of the ground was fenced off, and there was a large force of police present to keep the reserve clear. The time fixed for the event to take place was halt-past four, and at that hour some 4000 or 5000 people were gathered in and around the paddock. The hill at the north end of the field was covered with onlookers. After a delay of about half an hour the natives arrived on the ground, headed by a band. The dancing party consisted of about 50 women and 200 men, nearly all members of the Waikato tribe. The women attired in white flowing robes and were decked with some bright-coloured ribbons. On entering the field the women formed in line, and each woman placing her hands on the shoulders of the one in front of her, the whole party marched round in a circle, and then again formed line and faced the people. The Maori warriors in the meantime were crouching down behind the women. Most of the men had only pieces of cloth round their loins, the rest of the body being naked. They carried canoe paddles in their hands in place of guns, or, as was the custom in the old days, taiahas, tewhatewhas, meres, &c. Some of the men had decorated their heads with feathers. Te Rawhiti, who formerly occupied the position of secretary to Tawhiao, had charge of the women, and led them in their dance. The haka kotiro was then performed, and at each interval in the dance the spectators manifested their approval by applause. After a short interval the war-dance was given. The contortions of the men were hideous, and their chant and shouts had a strange effect. The dances were finished about quarter to six o'clock, when the natives returned to their quarters at the Naval Depot.