Information about the Maori

Maori is the name of the indigenous people of New Zealand, and their language. It is also the name of the people and language of the Cook Islands, referred to as Cook Islands Maori.

The word maori means "normal" or "ordinary" in the Maori language and is widely applied ("wai maori" is fresh water as distinct from seawater). "Maori" has similarities in some other Polynesian languages such as Hawaiian in which the cognate word maoli means native, indigenous, real or actual. The use of the term Maoris as the plural of Maori is now generally used outside New Zealand.

Today, many Maori prefer to refer to themselves as tangata whenua (literally "people of the land").

Maori arrival in New Zealand

It is not precisely known when Maori arrived. Polynesian voyagers are believed to have migrated to what is now New Zealand from eastern Polynesia in the latter part of the 1st millennium CE. As their descendants adjusted their practices and culture to their new environment, they became the Maori. New Zealand was one of the last Pacific island groups reached by humans.

Archaeological evidence suggests there were probably several waves of migration to New Zealand between 800 and 1300. Maori oral history describes their arrival from a place called Hawaiki by large ocean–going canoes (waka). Migration accounts vary among Maori tribes or iwi, whose members can identify with the different waka in their genealogies or whakapapa. According to Sir Peter Buck there were 10 Maori tribes resulting from the Main Fleet but this is not supported by all tribes.

Ngapuhi, one of the northern tribes, say their ancestors' journey from Hawaiki was aided by the gods, in that the sun did not set for three days. A possible reason for this claim is that their voyage coincided with the appearance in the sky of the Crab Nebula supernova which for several days was bright enough to be seen in daylight. Contemporary Chinese and Arab astronomers also recorded this event and dated it equivalent to July 1054.

There is no credible evidence of human settlement in New Zealand prior to the Maori voyagers. A fringe element claims there was extensive pre–Maori settlement, especially Martin Doutré in his book Ancient Celtic New Zealand, but such claims are generally dismissed as ludicrous by mainstream historians and archaeologists.

Possible origins

Recent maternal mitochondrial DNA analysis suggests that Polynesians, including Maori, are genetically linked to indigenous peoples of parts of Southeast Asia including those of Taiwan and the Andaman Islands. Current theory suggests that peoples from these areas made their way into the Pacific over many centuries, passing through Melanesia and moving eastwards, colonizing previously-unsettled islands as far east as what is now French Polynesia, Hawai'i and Rapa Nui. Polynesian seafarers achieved Pacific settlement by making very long canoe voyages, in some cases against the prevailing winds and tides, and their navigation skills were very well developed.

There are suggestions that Polynesian voyagers reached the South American mainland and made contact with indigenous South Americans. The sweet potato, known to Maori as "kumara" and introduced to New Zealand by them, is widely grown around the Pacific but originated in the Andes. There is no evidence that Pacific peoples actually settled on the South American mainland or that South American peoples voyaged into the Pacific.

European arrival

European colonization of New Zealand occurred relatively recently, causing the late New Zealand historian Michael King to state in his book, The Penguin History Of New Zealand, that Maori were "the last major human community on earth untouched and unaffected by the wider world."

The early European explorers, including Abel Tasman and James Cook, reported encounters with Maori.

These early reports described the Maori as a fierce and proud warrior race. Inter-tribal warfare was a way of life, with the conquered being enslaved or in some cases eaten. From as early as the 1780s Maori had encounters with European sealers and whalers; some even crewed on their ships. There was also a continuous trickle of escaped convicts from Australia and deserters from visiting ships. By 1830 it was estimated that there were as many as 2,000 Pakeha living among the Maori, status varying from slaves through to high ranking advisors, from prisoners to those who abandoned European culture and identified themselves as Maori. Pakeha were valued for their ability to describe European skills and culture and their ability to obtain European items in trade, particularly weaponry. These Europeans were known as Pakeha Maori. When Pomare led a war party against Titore in 1838, among his warriors were 132 Pakeha mercenaries. Frederick Edward Maning, an early settler, wrote two colourful contemporaneous accounts of life at that time which have become classics of New Zealand literature: Old New Zealand and History of the War in the North of New Zealand against the Chief Heke. Governor George Grey learned the language and recorded much of the mythology.

Musket wars

During this period the acquisition of muskets by those tribes in close contact with European visitors destabilised the existing balance of power between Maori tribes, and there was a period of bloody inter-tribal warfare, known as the Musket Wars, during which several tribes were effectively exterminated and others were driven from their traditional territory. European diseases also killed a large but unknown number of Maori during this period. Estimates vary between ten and fifty percent.


With increasing European missionary activity and settlement in the 1830s as well as perceived European lawlessness, the British Crown, as a predominant world power, came under pressure to intervene. Ultimately this led to William Hobson being dispatched with instructions to take possession of New Zealand. Before he arrived, Queen Victoria annexed new Zealand by royal proclamation in January 1840. On arrival in February, Hobson negotiated the Treaty of Waitangi with the surrounding northern chiefs. This treaty was subsequently signed by many other Maori chiefs, though by no means all. The treaty gave Maori British citizenship in return for a guarantee of property rights and tribal autonomy.

Disputes and decline

In the 1860s, disputes over questionable land purchases and the attempts of Maori in the Waikato to establish a rival British-style system of royalty led to the New Zealand wars. Although these resulted in relatively few deaths, large tracts of tribal land were confiscated by the colonial government. Settlements such as Parihaka in Taranaki are remembered as sites of violent conflict that took place there during that period.

With the loss of much of their land, Maori went into a period of decline, and in the late 19th century it was believed that the Maori population would cease to exist as a separate race and be assimilated into the European population.


The predicted decline did not occur, and population levels recovered. Despite a high degree of intermingling between the Maori and European populations (virtually all Maori are of mixed racial heritage today), Maori were able to retain their cultural identity and in the 1960s and 1970s, Maoridom underwent a cultural revival. No Maori live a traditional pre-European contact lifestyle today. Some commentators express frustration with the "theme-parkisation" of Maori identity with tourist-driven performances and gift shop "art". Others seek to develop a New Zealand identity that incorporates strands of Maori identity.

Sympathetic governments and political activism have led to compensation for certain historic instances of unjust confiscation of land and the violation of other property rights. A special court, the Waitangi Tribunal, was established to investigate and make recommendations on such issues. As a result of the compensation paid, Maori now have significant interests in the fishing and forestry industries.

Maori language ceased to be used as a living community language (by significant numbers of people) in the post-war years. Generous state funding is assisting with the revival attempt. Maori culture and language is taught in most New Zealand schools, and pre-school kohanga reo or language nests, teach tamariki or young children exclusively in Maori. Maori Television, a government-funded TV station committed to broadcasting primarily in te reo, began broadcasting on March 28, 2004. Maori language has the equivalent status to English in government and law. Maori politicians have seven designated Maori seats in the New Zealand parliament (and may stand in the General seats), and consideration and consultation with Maori are routine requirements for many New Zealand councils and government organisations.

Despite significant social and economic advances during the 20th century, Maori still perform negatively in most health and education statistics, labour participation as well as being over-represented in criminal and corrections statistics.

In 2001 a dispute arose between Danish toymaker LEGO and several Maori tribal groups fronted by lawyer Maui Solomon, and also several members of an online discussion forum Aotearoa Cafe, over the popular LEGO toy line, Bionicle, which used many words that were an appropriation of Maori language, imagery and folklore, was settled amicably. LEGO refused to withdraw the game, saying the names it used were drawn from many cultures, but later agreed that it had taken the names from Maori, and agreed to change certain names or spellings to help set the toy line apart from the Maori legends. This, however, did not prevent the many Bionicle users from continuing to use the disputed words, resulting in the popular Bionicle website BZPOWER coming under a denial of service attack for four days by a cyber attacker using the name Kotiate [1].

Several artistic collectives have been established by Maori tribal groups. These collectives have begun creating and exporting jewellery (such as bone carved hei matau pendants and greenstone jewellery) and other artistic items (such as wood carvings and textiles). Several actors who have recently appeared in high-profile movies filmed in New Zealand have come back wearing such jewellery, the most notable of which is Viggo Mortensen of The Lord of the Rings fame, who is now never without a Hei Matau hanging around his neck. These events have contributed towards a worldwide interest in traditional Maori culture and arts.

The above includes excerpts from Wikipedia.org, the free encyclopedia:

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