Story: Marae protocol – te kawa o te marae

Page 4. Basic marae etiquette

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All marae have their own kawa (protocols) and tikanga (rules). The best is advice is to ask the local people what their expectations are.

Before the pōwhiri (welcome)

  • Arrive early. It is considered impolite to walk onto a marae once a pōwhiri is underway.
  • Dress formally, particularly for a tangihanga.
  • Introduce yourself to other groups you don't know.
  • Give your koha (monetary gift) to the kaumātua with the envelope.
  • Ensure that your group has a speaker and kaikaranga organised.
  • Ensure cell phones are switched off throughout the pōwhiri.

During the pōwhiri

  • You should not just walk onto a marae; you need to be welcomed on.
  • Women walk on as a group, while men also group together.
  • Do not eat or drink during the welcome.
  • Do not walk in front of a speaker on the marae ātea.
  • Speak in Māori, not English, if giving a speech (unless expressly allowed).
  • Males sit at the front on most marae, though some marae allow both women and men to sit on the front seat.
  • At the conclusion of the welcome you should harirū (shake hands) and hongi (press noses). While on some marae kissing on the cheek is considered appropriate, others prefer that men and women just hongi and harirū.

After the pōwhiri

  • Wash your hands (water will be provided).

In the wharekai (dining room)

  • Manuhiri (visitors) will be called in for food. It is polite to let kaumātua (elders) go first. Often the person calling people in for food will say who should come first.
  • Wait until a karakia (grace) has been said before eating.
  • Do not pass food over a person’s head in the wharekai.
  • Do not sit on tables.

In the wharenui (meeting house)

  • Remove your shoes before going into the wharenui.
  • Check before you put your sleeping bag down. Certain parts of the wharenui are reserved for particular manuhiri and tangata whenua.
  • Do not eat or drink in the wharenui.
  • Do not step over people in the wharenui.
  • Do not sit on pillows.
  • Mattresses and pillows will be provided but you will need to bring your own blankets or sleeping bag.

At a tangihanga

  • Wash your hands after greeting the bereaved family and farewelling the tūpāpaku (dead person).
  • Wash your hands after leaving an urupā (cemetery).

General marae etiquette

  • Some marae do not allow photographs, filming or tape recording without permission.
How to cite this page:

Basil Keane, 'Marae protocol – te kawa o te marae - Basic marae etiquette', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/marae-protocol-te-kawa-o-te-marae/page-4 (accessed 24 June 2017)

Story by Basil Keane, published 5 Sep 2013