Haka is a taonga that is steeped in whakapapa and has its origins in the creation of the universe, generating an abundance of meaning and value for Māori. On a national stage, haka is by far the most visible Indigenous ritual within the fabric of Aotearoa New Zealand’s national identity and continues to have a lasting legacy within the realm of sport. However, a major source of contention is the impact of globalisation on haka in sport, which has seen increasing issues of misuse, commodification, appropriation and tokenism. Despite the cultural significance of haka to Māori and arguably to the nation as an expression of our national sporting identity, there continues to be a general lack of understanding about the importance of whakapapa in the customary practice of haka. This paper argues the need to protect the taonga that is haka by ensuring that whakapapa is upheld and better understood. A Kaupapa Māori research framework was adopted in order to privilege Māori knowledge and voices. Research methods included the use of haka pūrākau, which were thematically examined and used to frame the data, as well as semi-structured interviews with nine Māori participants. Three key themes emerged from the research, which formed Whakawhiti te rā - an approach that advocates for more concerted efforts to understand the notion of whakapapa as a protective mechanism when using Māori rituals and taonga such as haka in sporting contexts.