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Some key marae values, concepts, and practices


The pōwhiri (or pōhiri) is the welcoming ceremony on a marae. Marae are not the only places where pōwhiri take place. Pōwhiri can happen anywhere that hosts (tangata whenua) wish to formally welcome a group of visitors (manuhiri). Pōwhiri is a step by step process of removing the tapu of the visitors and making them one with the tangata whenua. While pōwhiri may vary according to the occasion and the tribal region, te reo Māori is the language used.

A pōwhiri begins with the karanga, which is the ceremonial call of welcome. The start of the karanga indicates to the visiting group that they are free to move on to the marae ātea (sacred space directly in front of the meeting house) towards the hosts and the meeting house. The kaikaranga from both sides call to each other as they begin to establish the intent and the purpose of the visit. It is said that the kaikaranga (callers) between them weave the two groups (hosts and visitors) together through their voices.

Tangata whenua

Generally, there are two main groups of people on a marae: the tangata whenua and the manuhiri. The tangata whenua are the local people who are connected to the marae, either through genealogy or by association, and who regard the marae as their tūrangawaewae (which literally means “a place to stand”). The concept of a tūrangawaewae includes both rights and obligations to a certain place. Whakapapa (genealogy) gives people the right to determine the kawa (protocols and practices), functions, and roles on their marae and the responsibility to provide manaakitanga (hospitality) to manuhiri (visitors), ensuring that they are well fed and looked after. The tangata whenua generally do all they can to make any hui on their marae a success. They contribute to the food supplies and provide the workforce for the kitchen, dining room, meeting house, and welcoming ceremonies. They remove the tapu from the visitors, which allows them to become one with the tangata whenua.


The second group is the manuhiri (visitors). They are guided by the kawa of the tangata whenua to honour their hosts. The manuhiri respect the local customs and patterns of behaviour and give a koha (gift) to the tangata whenua. The koha is usually money, to cover costs, but can also include gifts or donations of food.


People have rights and obligations to a certain place because of their links through their parents and their ancestors. Your tūrangawaewae gives you a home base on a marae. It gives you the right to speak as tangata whenua on that marae.

Your school can adopt the values inherent in the concept of tūrangawaewae. This would help to develop a sense of belonging in your classroom and within your school. A sense of tūrangawaewae would reinforce the rights and obligations of all the students in the physical space of your school.

You and your students can also practise the values involved in tūrangawaewae during discussions in your classroom. For example, whenever a student speaks, they could stand up so that what they have to say is listened to and valued. Doing this would create an obligation to listen on the part of those who are seated.


Whanaungatanga means kinship ties. People who belong to a particular marae trace their whakapapa to that marae and to the ancestors it represents. They have the right to stand and speak, and the obligation to look after and maintain the marae and uphold its mana. Whanaungatanga is extended to include manuhiri when they stay on a marae. This is demonstrated when a person addresses everyone who is staying on a marae as family when they say “Kia ora e te whānau” (Greetings, family).


Literally, manaakitanga means to “care for a person’s mana” (well-being, in a holistic sense). On a marae, it is often claimed that it is not what is said that matters but how people are looked after. This is the essence of manaakitanga.

Manaakitanga also includes the respect we give to elders. Our elders are responsible for the manaakitanga (care) of the entire group connected to a marae. The manaakitanga they give is based on their knowledge, life experience, and wisdom.


An extension of manaakitanga is the concept of aroha (love, in its widest sense). Aroha can mean respect, concern, hospitality, and the process of giving. Aroha is reflected in the way that tangata whenua volunteer to provide hospitality, in the way that manuhiri become part of the tangata whenua and share in the duties of the day and, more importantly, in the way that people relate to one another.


On a marae, a karakia (prayer service) is conducted each morning and evening. During these services, prayers are said for guidance, care, and protection. Karakia on a marae are shared and inclusive, and any person who wishes to can conduct the service.

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