The indigenous people of New
Zealand are the Maori. The Maori are of Polynesian
descent and make up approximately 14% of the
population of the country. Maoritanga is their
language which is related to Hawaiian and Tahitian.
It is thought that the Maori transmigrated from
Polynesia in small boats around the ninth century to
thirteenth century AD.
Abel Tasman, a Dutch navigator, was the first
European to come into contact with the Maori. In
1642, four of his crew members were butchered in a
violent encounter. The British explorer, James Cook,
established in 1769 friendly associations with a
number of Maori. Visits by ships from Europe became
quite frequent by the 1800s.
During this period, disease and war took their toll on the
population of the Maori until finally their numbers dwindled
to approximately 100,000.
In 1840, spokespeople of Britain and the chiefs of the Maori
signed the Treaty of Waitangi. This treaty laid down British
rule, allowed the Maori British legal status, and
acknowledged the land rights of the Maori.
Currently, several of the provisions of the treaty
are challenged and there is an attempt from the
Government of New Zealand to compensate Maori for
land that was illicitly sequestered.
Today, the population of the Maori is approximately
600,000 or 14% of the country’s total population,
and the Maori reside in all regions of New Zealand,
but largely in the North Island where the
temperature is warmer.
Prior to the arrival of the White Man or Pakeha to
New Zealand, all Maori literature was passed onto
the next generations orally. This involved several
legends and songs or waiata.
The most popular tradition currently is the "Haka" which is
a dance of war.
The Haka was executed before the attack of
war by the Maori during the last century, but has been
commemorated by the All Blacks, the Rugby Team of New
Zealand, who do this dance prior to each game.
Powhiri is the traditional welcome of the Maori.
This calls for a “hongi” which is a salutation which
involves the pressing noses instead of a kiss.
One more striking feature of the culture of the
Maori is the artistic tattoos that were sported.
“Moko” or tattoos that covered the entire face were
predominantly an activity of the males of the Maori
tribes. “Moko” in females were restricted mainly to
the upper lip, the chin, and the nostrils areas.
Currently, a large number of Maori are receiving the Moko in an attempt to continue their identity and
culture. “Hangi”, a traditional sort of cooking is a
meal cooked in the ground.
Heated stones are placed in a pit which has been dug out
covered in leaves of cabbage or watercress to prevent the
burning of the food.
Pork, mutton, chicken, Kumera or sweet potatoes, and
potatoes are then unconventionally placed into the cavity in
The food is protected with cloth of mutton or
alike and conventionally with flax. Eventually, to keep in
the steam, soil is placed on top.