The haka is a ceremonial Māori war dance that is usually performed in a group as a show of the tribe's pride, strength, and unity.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on April 6, 2023. It has since been updated.
In a video, a whānau is seen performing a fiery and emotional haka for a daughter before her last collegiate home volleyball game. The original video was uploaded on TikTok by @kazzieet, garnering 24.8 million views with over 4 million likes. "Grateful for my whānau in honoring me with the haka for my last home game," the caption reads. "I feel so loved!" According to the CBC, 'haka' is a traditional Māori performing art that uses the hands, arms, feet, voice, eyes, and even the tongue to express a range of emotions. The term comes from the words "kapa," meaning to form a line, and "haka", which means dance. It is performed to welcome distinguished guests and at ceremonies to prepare for a battle.
ESPN posted the video to their Instagram account and received 741K likes. Many in the comments were delighted to see the cultural appreciation of a 130-year-old Maori tradition. "I’m not familiar with this, but you can feel the love and beauty of their culture," @sweetcherrypie.minidoodle wrote. "Thanks for sharing this!" Another user, @theblueone_14, commented, Dude, I love Māori culture. It’s so rich and united. Plus a Haka from her family to prep her for the battle ahead we call life? Man, that’s just so cool." Meanwhile, @jon_mace said, "Haka is one of the coolest cultural traditions. Every time I see or hear one, I get chills. Love it." Damn, that's right! When performed well with strict discipline, the haka is something amazing to behold, and it is a great character-building exercise with the power to connect the performers to their past and present.
"On behalf of the Americans, we do not claim the people in here that don’t understand your culture, and this is beautiful and always will be," wrote @coreysodope. Because of the hate comments in the video about the haka being a 'weird tradition', @ryback.1996 clapped back on the haters by commenting, "Allow me to speak on behalf of the rational, normal Americans here. I respect the Haka and find it to be one of the coolest things in culture. I wish we had something just as cool here in the States, but we do not," Although the Americans in the video may not be knowledgeable about what they are watching, the family in the video shared their respect for the Māori culture and it was awesome.
The girl in the video is Kazna Tanuvasa, and she just finished her final season with Utah Valley University's top women's volleyball team, the Wolverines, in 2022. She was born in New Zealand, but her family moved to Utah early in her life. Tanuvasa, whose transition to college athletics is seamless, attended Pleasant Grove High School and was coached by UVU staff member Kayli Doxey. Because of her hard work, Tanuvasa appeared in every match during her freshman year, recording 558 kills and 266 digs as the Wolverines and was invited to the 2018 National Invitation Volleyball Championship. Looking back on her legacy, she says, "It is a surreal moment knowing that all of the hard work I have put towards the game has paid off.”
The New Zealand All Blacks rugby team, featured in the documentary "Body Language Decoded," from The Nature of Things, has one of the most well-known Haka performances. Before each international match, the team does the "Ka mate, Ka mate" Haka. The tradition went back to 1888 and was used by the New Zealand Native team. Amy Cuddy, a social psychologist and associate professor at Harvard Business School, says that the dance is not meant to intimidate but prepare the performer for the challenge ahead.