New Zealand Māori Party co-leader Rawiri Waititi broke parliament protocol and performed the haka before being sworn in as a member of parliament on Tuesday Dec. 5.
New Zealand’s lawmakers have to swear an oath of allegiance to King Charles before they are inducted into the parliament.
When it came to Waititi’s turn, he, as well as five other members of the Māori party, instead opted to first swear allegiance to their descendants and the country’s founding document, the Treaty of Waitangi.
After doing so, Waititi then moved to the front of the parliament to swear the oath to King Charles in Māori instead of English.
The same day, thousands of people took to the streets across New Zealand to protest the newly elected right-wing government’s plans to roll back Indigenous rights.
Prime minister Christopher Luxon’s government has said it is looking to reinterpret the Treaty of Waitangi, the country’s 180-year-old founding document.
Signed by British colonists and Māori chiefs, the treaty set outs the rights of Māori people, how resources are to be allocated and political power is recognized.
Since taking power, Luxon’s government has announced plans to close the Māori Health Authority, Te Aka Whai Ora, set up by former prime minister Jacinda Ardern’s government and change the names of some departments from Māori to English.
The move has been widely criticized by health experts, who say it will be particularly damaging for Māori communities, which have higher smoking rates and associated health risks.
Waititi, whose party called for the protest, said that the new government’s policies take New Zealand “back to the 1800s,” according to the BBC.
“Our protest this morning was an activation of our people,” he said.
This is not the first time Waititi has performed the haka in parliament.