Maori - History and Cultural Relations

New Zealand was evidently settled in three waves by travelers from Polynesian islands in A . D . 950, 1150, and 1350. The early arrivals, the Moriori, subsisted mainly by fishing and hunting the moa and other birds that are now extinct. The final (pre-European) immigration was that of the "seven canoes of the great fleet." The people of the great fleet assimilated the original inhabitants by marriage and conquest. The immigrants of 1350 arrived with their own domesticated plants and animals (several of which did not survive the transition from a tropical to a temperate climate), and they subsequently developed into the Maori of the present historical period. Whalers and sealers were common visitors to New Zealand in the 1790s and their relations with the Maori were generally unfriendly and often violent. The first missionaries arrived in 1814 and by the 1830s large numbers of Europeans and Australians were settling in New Zealand. With the Treaty of Waitangi, signed in February 1840 by many (but not all) of the indigenous chiefs, the Maori relinquished sovereignty over New Zealand land and in turn received British recognition and protection, as well as guaranteed rights to their native lands. A period of rapid acculturation ensued, lasting until 1860. The years 1860-1865 saw many battles Between the Maori and the government of New Zealand, mainly over questions of land rights and sovereignty. By 1900 their population slide had reversed and the Maori began to play a more active role in New Zealand society. They received Permanent Maori seats in the national legislature, and most discriminatory laws were repealed. At present the Maori are a legally recognized minority group (about 10 percent of the population), and they receive special legal and economic considerations on these grounds. Since the 1960s there has been a move to revitalize the Maori language and the Maori are attempting to preserve their cultural heritage while living side-by-side with the "Pakeha" (New Zealanders of European descent). This summary focuses on traditional Maori culture.

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