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New Zealand Maori


New Zealand Maori

New Zealand Maori

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 a basket.

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.

Maori in New Zealand



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