Māori people outraged about Funkwerks’ Maori King

Yesterday, our biggest search result was for some variations of “Maori King Beer”. I couldn’t figure out why. Then I saw this this morning on BeerNews.org:

(Fort Collins, CO) – When branding a beer after a culture with which you are not familiar goes horribly wrong…
When I posted the label and press release for Funkwerks Māori King Imperial Saison on August 8th, I did so without a second thought, being completely unfamiliar with the history of these indigenous people. Apparently, Funkwerks wasn’t familiar with them enough either…

According to Wikipedia, “The arrival of Europeans to New Zealand starting from the 17th century brought enormous change to the Māori way of life. Māori people gradually adopted many aspects of Western society and culture. Initial relations between Māori and Europeans were largely amicable, and with the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840 the two cultures coexisted as part of a new British colony. However, rising tensions over disputed land sales led to conflict in the 1860s. Social upheaval, decades of conflict and epidemics of disease took a devastating toll on the Māori population. But by the start of the 20th century the Māori population had begun to recover, and efforts were made to increase their standing in wider New Zealand society. A marked Māori cultural revival gathered pace in the 1960s and is continuing.”

Within the last 24 hours, news has spread across New Zealand mediaoutlets and Māori news websites about the beer’s existence and the Māori’s contention with use of their culture in the beer’s branding.

In short, they are outraged.

Over the past fifteen hours, Funkwerks’ Facebook page has been flooded with criticism. The image that I uploaded to Flickr gives you an idea of how many posts have been made on the FB page during that time. [Note: the original on my computer is 29,000px in height.]

As part of a formal statement to the Māori people, Funkwerks Co-Owner/Brewer, Gordon Schuck, writes, “There is a saying, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. The Maori King name was meant as homage to the Maori people and their fight to have their own leaders. I don’t know the entire history of the Maori people but if it’s anything like the Native Americans, I’m sure they’ve gotten the short end of the stick. I’m very sympathetic to native people. My fiancé is part Native American. I never meant this name to be construed as an insult and for that I am deeply sorry.”

The brewery has not yet given an indication that it will change the branding for Māori King.

What do you think?

About PJ Hoberman

PJ likes beer. A lot. And whiskey. Gin. Wine. Cocktails. Um.. what were we talking about?

  • Thomas Simmons

    Tempest in a tea pot. These are the same people who post some of the most anti-American nonsense in their teachers’ lounges and school commons. They go on and on on radio talk shows about the all the adverse effects they can attribute to “Americans” – which by the way is often used as a pejorative in New Zealand. They have had incidences wherein shop owners have posted – and I am not making this up – “No Jews Allowed” (with no legal recriminations I might add) all the while howling about racialism in “America”, they spend endless hours denigrating “American” social services whilst taxing one and all through the nose for health care that is inaccessible, they complain about agricultural subsidies in America while benefiting from decades of subsidies that literally built their own economy. They write and openly enforce sex discrimination laws while beating their breast over discrimination in “America”, and the ‘aggrieved’ Maori did more to destroy each other in the centuries leading up to and long after the arrival of the Europeans. They are making a fuss because they have no power over anything and they resent Americans just on principle.

  • jan c

    don’t change the name.

  • Nikola Anaru

    I would love to know where you get your information from, Thomas Simmons. I am a Maori, and don’t know anyone to use “American” as an insult of any kind. As for your “no Jews allowed” story, it isn’t quite as simple as you make out:


    I am currently in the United States, where I have been living for the past couple of years. When meeting new people and explaining where I am from, it is not uncommon for people to pause and then say, “Oh! I have friends/family in Australia!”. Over time I have come to realize that this is just people trying to relate, and using what may be the only reference point that they have – if I pulled out a map of the world, I would not expect every person to be able to place every nation on a map; indeed, I couldn’t do it myself. My point is that kiwis, myself included, don’t expect everyone to know where our country is – and that we don’t need them to, either. If our people cannot be “put on the map” for conquering Mt. Everest, discovering radioactive half-life, or being first to give women the vote, then we certainly do not expect nor need free publicity over alcohol.

    Cultural appropriation is a tricky subject to approach. Personally, I believe that different people have different thresholds that they can tolerate – but in this case, this is pretty unacceptable.

    Firstly, the Maori King is an actual person. His name is Tuheitia Paki, and the marketing department at Funkwerks Brewery could have found that out simply by typing “Maori King” into Google. While not all iwi follow the Kingitanga movement, an number of them do; and we have had Maori sovereignty present since the 1800s.

    Secondly, Maori have been hugely adversely affected since the introduction of alcohol into our society, both since they first had contact with Europeans, and today. Today Maori are the demographic most at risk to suffer the consequences of alcohol abuse – so for there to be an alcoholic beverage named after the sovereign leader of our people – without even any sort of research or permission-seeking – is hugely problematic and shameful.

    Thirdly, the stylized moko on the beer label is a further insult. Te Moko is a ritual reserved for only the highest ranking Maori, and symbolizes adulthood and prestige, as well as communicating lineage. It is absolutely sacred, and for this imagery to be used to promote any product – but particularly an alcoholic beverage – is disrespectful.

    I am shocked that the Funkwerks staff decided on this branding as appropriate, especially when the significance of the words “Maori King” and Te Moko could have been discovered even with the most rudimentary research. The Funkwerks staff have many options available to them; and I hope that although it may be considered “expensive and impractical”, that they will recall this product in good faith and think of another name for it. Maori may have a small population, but we are significant, and I believe that in this case, our grievance is a valid one.

    • Thomas Simmons

      >I would love to know where you get your information from, Thomas >Simmons. I am a Maori, and don’t know anyone to use “American” as >an insult of any kind.

      Traveled the length and breadth of New Zealand for more than 30 years. You are simply not paying attention. New Zealand runs the entire gamut, from “great to see you here, what do you think of New Zealand?” to “F*** off you F***ing Americans”. The latter is more common now than in the 70s and 80s. Being denied service is becoming more common too. There are still good solid Kiwi folk but they are a dying breed. This new, “I want what I want when I want it” generation has the entire country tied up in knots. What THEY feel is the absolute truth and those who speak against them are bad people to be cursed and spat upon. And in 10-20 years they will be running the State of New Zealand and they will destroy it unless they wake up. Worked in the public sector in NZ for years. Saw a lot more violence and petty theft and substance abuse then I ever saw in Eastern Europe, Midwestern US, or Western Asia. I suspect my travels began while you parents were still in nursery school.

      >As for your “no Jews allowed” story, it isn’t quite as simple as you make out:

      Not complicated at all. The proprietor hates Jews. It is that simple. I dropped in for a cuppa and let him rant whilst I sipt and lent an ear. He hates Jews and he hates ‘Americans’. The other joint was ‘closed’ for the day so I never heard their take on it.

      My advantage here is that I have been able to compare NZ for many years over five generations and I assure you, NZ has a serious problem and many NZers inverted sense of entitlement is at the heart of the problem. My considered advice is to ease off, name a beer for Lincoln. Or Jerry Falwell. That is how Kiwis handle this. Good example, a Marine honour guard inadvertently carried the Canadian flag into a baseball stadium upside down. Who knew? The Canadians thought it humourous. Next game played in Toronto, every Canadian had a small US flag – upside down. It was a hoot. This was a World Series game. In New Zealand they can not wait to tell you “American beer is crap,” or “Bush is an c***” or “You Americans should be ashamed of yourselves for (the trendy complaint here).” Best spend some time with the Canadians and restore (or gain as the case may be), that ineffable Kiwi humour and sense of fair play that is slowly but surely passing into memory.

      • gem

        I believe you would find that you yourself is not an incredibly kind person otherwise we would have shown you respect and honesty when you visited, or maybe its because we don’t treat tourists like kings and queens but as equals. And as for hating the yanks, well if you’re the representative they put forward, then yeah we don’t like you, so don’t judge an entire country on one pub that didn’t like jews. I’m proud to be a kiwi and proud to live in one of the most beautiful and safest countries in the world.

    • Mark Johnson

      Thanks for that incredibly reasoned and informative response.

  • Nikola Anaru

    I find the “you are taking yourselves too seriously” approach to be ridiculous, although something very much bandied about in this debate. The offense caused by this small brewery may have been unintentional – but it is very real, and very valid. I do not think that anyone is asking very much to take this new information into account and change the name to something less offensive.

    You are correct in assuming that I am a young New Zealander, but what of it? You are more “worldly and traveled” than I am, and therefore much more representative of Maori people? Do not presume to tell me “how Kiwis handle this” – clearly you have no sense of pride for any New Zealanders, save your own fading generation.

  • Nikola Anaru

    I will leave a postscript, in that I have noticed, Thom, that you have been posting extremely heated and baiting remarks on this issue on at least three different websites – I wonder why, and what your problem seems to be with young people? I do hope that you find something more productive to do with your time than to “save copies” of comments made by NZers, that you may show them to your friends, eh?

    “Thom Simmons I keep pdf files of these exchanges and show them to folks all over the world who want to visit to New Zealand. Invariably they change their plans, especially when they see how much violence and substance abuse there is here.”

  • Renee White

    Wow Thomas Simmons, Ive lived here for all 34 years of my life, I am half European half Maori, never in my life time have I ever seen or heard such things that you speak of… Im lucky I get to walk in both worlds huh, head high and proud of all my heritage… perhaps you were here in the Vietnam War days, as far as I know the entire world was angry at that time. You know nothing of who we are. We are the people of this land, we would feed you if you were hungry, give shelter if you needed, make u whanau if you had none… its just part of who we are, and after reading your statements, the pride in me right now couldnt shine any brighter. Im proud to be from this land and to have learnt the teachings of our elders, its called MANAAKITANGA, and perhaps you didnt receive any in your time here, because you were not worthy of our aroha, we are not silly people,you can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink, you are very parched indeed!

  • Christopher Whaiapu

    Thomas. I get it, you’re the great white hope who went to NZ to tell Maori what was good for them right? And european intervention was what Maori needed because we were destroying ourselves – as opposed to 1500 years of Christian dominancy and mass executions of your own people if you didn’t believe in the big JC. Sure, living in NZ on a quarter acre section with crystal clean water, freshest air and the tastiest food in world is absolutely wrong. NZ shouldn’t be allowed to have this lifestyle and we should all be like the yanks and laugh at a new beer. How about I bottle my urine up and slap a “denver USA” label on it….u know, the kind that leaves a real bad taste in your mouth. Once a wank, always a wank.

  • Rbald42

    Love how Thomas Simmons rants about a different cultures unfair generalizations, and in doing so, makes an unfair generalization of said culture.

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