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Hundreds of students perform emotional haka dance at popular teacher’s funeral

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A large group of students at a school in New Zealand honored their beloved teacher by performing a haka as his hearse approached the school for his funeral over the weekend.

Dawson Tamatea, 55, died in his sleep on July 20. He had been a teacher at the school for nearly 30 years.

A haka is a traditional ancestral war cry from the Māori people of New Zealand. It is a posture dance performed by a group, with vigorous movements and stamping of the feet with rhythmically shouted accompaniment, according to All Black’s Haka.

“This was a very emotional and powerful performance,” the school wrote on its YouTube channel. “We are extremely proud of our boys’ performance and we know that Mr Tamatea would be, too.”

Tamatea was also involved in several sports at the school including tennis, basketball, and softball.

“He is very well known amongst our school community, and amongst the wider Palmerston North community,” rector D.M. Bovey wrote in a statement to ABC News. “We are very conscious that Mr. Tamatea’s passing will be difficult for many young men with whom he has had a close association as either a teacher, coach, manager or camp leader, as well as for many of our teachers who have known him for a long period of time.”

The school said at least 1,700 students participated in the haka tribute to Tamatea.