Maori - Orientation

Identification. The Maori are the indigenous inhabitants of New Zealand. Culturally, they are Polynesians, most closely related to eastern Polynesians. After contact with Europeans, the people now known as the Maori began using the term tangata maori, meaning "usual or ordinary people," to refer to themselves.

Location. The Maori were originally settled primarily in the northern parts of North Island, New Zealand. South Island was much more sparsely settled.

Demography. When Captain Cook visited New Zealand in 1769 the indigenous population was probably between 200,000 and 250,000. The population declined after contact with Europeans, but it began to recover at the beginning of this century and now approaches 300,000.

Linguistic Affiliation. Maori is classified as part of the Polynesian Group of the Eastern Oceanic Branch of the Austronesian languages. Approximately one-third of the Maori still speak their ancestral language, with the vast majority fluent in English as well.

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