Māori people fuming over Funkwerks beer

maori-king-belgian-style-ale

(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 media outlets 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.

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11 thoughts on “Māori people fuming over Funkwerks beer

  1. Being married to a black woman doesn’t allow you to use the N word. How does not even being married to a PART native american give them validation that the use of the Maori people is acceptable? Kind of a reach…

    Maybe he knows a Maori and asked him for permission?

  2. I hate to seem naive, but can someone explain exactly what the outrage is? I’m having trouble figuring out what is wrong here.

  3. The “Māori King” is really not cool. When the British wanted to negotiate for land, they wanted a Māori king. No such thing has ever existed (Māori are not one race, multiple tribes, some are completely unrelated). The British APPOINTED one, from a random brown nosing tribe and to this day they still call themselves the royalty of Māori which really doesn’t make other tribes happy.

    The combination of Māori King and using a south island Tā moko….. ouch. Not cool. Additionally, many tribes ban the use of alcohol on tribal grounds.

    The response from the brewery seems pretty lame too. Because his fiancé is part Native American it suddenly makes him sensitive to all cultures and people and gives them the right to use their cultural symbols? I’m sure no one would be offended if someone made a beer with a picture of the Virgin Mary and called it Virgin’s Blood as long as it was made by someone married to someone that was Christian right?

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