The University of Missouri System announced today that each of the four campuses in the system will adopt its own Haka, a traditional Māori war dance performed before rugby matches.
Mike Middleton, newly appointed interim president of the University of Missouri System, said in an interview with the Kansas City Star that affecting the needed change meant ensuring that the right people are appointed to the right committees and task forces.
He then added, “But, let’s be honest, the sort of change we are seeking is going to require something ambitious and bold, like being the first American university, hell, the first American anything, to adopt our own Hakas. And to that I can only say, Boo-yah, baby!”
The Haka is an ancient Māori war dance traditionally used by warriors prior to battle to intimidate enemies by displaying a tribe’s pride and ferocity. Movements involve foot-stomping, chest pounding, weird tongue displays, all set to loud chanting that verges on screaming. The words of a Haka describe ancestors and battles of a tribe’s history.
The Haka today is often used in political ceremonies and public celebrations. But, it is best known internationally through pre-match displays performed by the New Zealand All Blacks rugby team, which has been for years one of the dominant rugby teams in the world.
“The Haka is very powerful. It unifies our entire club and teams each time we perform it. And I mean everyone, Maoris, whites, blacks, everyone,” said Tamati Whetu of the All Blacks.
Chief Diversity Officer on each of the four campuses, within the University of Missouri System, will be tasked with coming up with a Haka for that campus and teaching it to non-white students of that campus, who will then teach it to other students. Students of all ethnicities will then be afforded five minutes to perform their Haka prior to each class.
“Systemic racism and marginalization of students of color still exists on our campus,” said Willifred Johnson, of the UMS Diversity Office, “as it has for centuries, even after the Civil War of the 1860s and the Civil Rights of the 1960s, and it is now clear that the only way we are going to break that cycle is with something bold. And we hope that boldness is the Haka. It worked for the Māoris and we hope that it will work for us. At the very least it will bring an interesting new dimension to our football games.”
Payton Head, MU Student Body President, when asked for comment, said, “OK. Haka. Fine. Whatever. But, I swear I am going off on the first mother fucker who tries to rap this shit.”
Haka auditions are ongoing. All interested parties should submit demo sound files at TigerHaka.com.