A group of Bay of Islands College students are fundraising furiously to take their culture to the world.

About 50 students from the Kawakawa school's bilingual unit will travel to the US and Canada later this year for a series of kapa haka performances and exchanges with Native American high schools.

Every two years the unit, Reo Rua, organises an overseas trip, usually with an indigenous theme. In 2014 they travelled to Hawaii; this time they will start with several days in Vancouver, visit a school on Vancouver Island where the principal is a Cree Indian, then travel down the US coast by cruise ship for five days while performing for passengers.

The cruise will end in Los Angeles where they plan a cultural exchange with a Native American school and possibly a kapa haka performance at Disneyland.


The school's head of Maori, Edith Painting-Davis, said Canada was chosen because it offered opportunities to interact with indigenous peoples. The school also tried to visit places that would normally be too far away or too expensive for Northland families to visit without the benefit of group discounts.

Kawakawa 16-year-old Hailey Mareikura-Edmonds said she wanted to put Maori culture on the map.

"I want to share kapa haka with the world, and it'll be a new experience. Most people don't get this opportunity," she said.

Fifteen-year-old Panokonoko Cherrington, from Motatau, said she was fascinated by Native American cultures. They also faced similar issues to Maori such as loss of land.

Lukas George, of Russell, went on the Hawaii trip and is also going to Canada. The 16-year-old said he enjoyed learning about Hawaiian culture and was struck by the contrast in performing arts, with the Hawaiians' dances as graceful as the Maori haka was fierce.

"They just loved the haka," he said.

Each student has to raise $3000 for the 12-day trip. The school is applying for grants to cover costs such as travel uniforms; the students are making hangi every two weeks and will hold a performance night on April 7. They also plan a gala and will do some of the catering for the upcoming Manu Korero speech contests in Kawakawa and Whangarei.

The bilingual unit has 120 students in Years 9-13 out of a total roll of about 390. So far 48 students have put their hands up for the trip. They will leave on September 24 and return on October 8.