Members of a teenage thrash metal band have been accused of "cultural appropriation" following a $10,000 grant to record and produce their song about the Battle of Gate Pa.
The three band members of Alien Weaponry, Henry de Jong, 15, his brother Lewis, 13, and Ethan Trembath, 13, are all European in appearance, but all have Maori heritage.
The de Jong brothers are from Ngati Pikiao and Ngati Tuara in Te Arawa, and attended a full immersion Puna Reo and Kura Kaupapa Maori in Auckland when they were younger.
The brothers said their European appearance was sometimes a source of playground taunts.
The band was awarded a $10,000 NZ On Air funding grant to record and produce a video of their song Ruana Te Whenua, about an ancestor of the de Jong brothers, Te Ahoaho, who was killed fighting British soldiers in the Tauranga campaigns at Gate Pa/Pukehinahina.
The band members have shared their frustration at being accused of "cultural appropriation" in online comments after a story about their grant was published.
The comments included:
"It's an insult to Maori for these guys to say they have any Maori ancestry," and
"I thought it was all about culture. Couldn't be any more pasty white than this."
Henry said children used to tell him he was not Maori.
"It still happens at my current school, but I was surprised to see that adults are making those kinds of comments too."
The brothers said it had been a struggle keeping up their reo since moving out of the total immersion environment, and that incorporating it into their music has been a positive way for them to retain and strengthen their identity as Maori.
"It's funny, we are used to being ostracised because we play thrash metal, or because of our age," Henry said.
"But this is the first time we've been told we shouldn't sing in te reo Maori because of our names and the colour of our skin and hair."
While there had been negative comments, Lewis said there were many more positive ones.
"We just listen to the people saying 'Tautoko' and 'Tumeke, boys,' and keep working on our music.
"We want to be recognised internationally, and singing in te reo Maori helps us to stand out. The fact that NZ On Air has recognised this is huge for us, and we really appreciate their support."
Shihad drummer and artist development guru Tom Larkin is producing the single, which will be released in early 2016.