[Story and photos by Mike Foley, originally published in PCC’s Imua Polenesia newsletter, August 2005]
In the summer of 1963 the late Wendell B. Mendenhall, president of all LDS labor missionaries in the Pacific, asked 148 New Zealand Maori to help get the Polynesian Cultural Center ready for its opening on October 12th that year. The group, all volunteers who paid their own expenses, stayed for six weeks and not only put the finishing touches on the Center, but also dominated the PCC’s first night show with their lively action songs and beautiful harmony. They also put on concerts in California and Utah before returning home.
On Aug. 5, 2005, 48 surviving members returned to PCC for the first time as a group to participate in the Whakataetae festival. In accordance with Maori custom, PCC villagers and Maori community members welcomed them and the other Whakataetae visitors with chants, a wero challenge, speeches, songs and hongi [nose pressing] greetings.
Members of the Te Aroha Nui group and others enter the marae
at the Polynesian Cultural Center