The Maori are the indigenous people of New Zealand. They traveled to New Zealand from
eastern Polynesia around the year 1280 AD. According to Maori legend several large ocean
going canoes (waka) arrived from the mythical home Hawaiki. The actual early settlement most
likely occurred in waves over time. Due to centuries of isolation from the rest of the world the
Maori established a distinct society with distinctive art, a separate language, and unique mythology.
The Maori people are also known for their unique tattoos. For more information on Maori tattoos see Maori Tattooing
The early settlement period of new Zealand is called the Archaic period. The Museum of New Zealand refers to it as
Nga Kakano (the seeds). During this initial period, which lasted to approximately 1300 AD, the Maori established
many small settlements along the coast and some temporary smaller settlements inland.
These settlements average population was three to four hundred people.
The early Maori settlers main food were seals and a large flightless bird called the Moa which were hunted to extinction.
The early settlers did not call themselves Maori until the arrival of Europeans in New Zealand. At this time they needed a
name to mark their distinction from the new comers. The name Maori which means ordinary came into use. The early Maori were
very peaceful in comparison to the later generations of the Classic Period.
The classic period, referred to as Te Tipunga (the growth) by the Maori ranged from approximately 1300 AD to 1500 AD.
Major events ushered in this period. These events included a cooling of the environment, tsunamis that destroyed many costal settlements, the extinction of several
species used for food (especially the moa), and large earthquakes on New Zealandís south island. This period saw a warfare culture emerge with
many battles between tribes. These battles were fought hand-to-hand with deadly and efficient weapons. For more information on Maori weapons see Maori Weapons
Each battle was usually preceded by a war dance called the haka meant to intimidate the enemy.
This period also saw the building of hill forts (Pa), mostly on New Zealandís North Island. These forts often used natural
barriers (rivers, swamps) on one or more sides.
This period also saw beautiful wood carvings and bone and greenstone ornaments of all types. These ornaments had distinctive shapes
all of which held a special meaning. For more information on Maori carving designs see Maori Carving Designs
or to see beautiful hand carved Maori Jewelery for sale go to The Bone Art Place
Maori People's early contact with Europeans
Early European contact with the Maori include Abel Tasman in 1642 and Captain James Cook in 1769. In the late eighteenth
century the Maori increasingly had encounters with sealers and whalers from America and Europe. They also encountered
Christian missionaries, deserters from ships, and escaped convicts from Australia.
In 1809 the Maori killed sixty six sailors and passengers which was probably for revenge of the whipping of a Maori chiefs son.
Survivors told stories of cannibalism carried out on the unfortunate victims.
This became known as the Boyd Massacre and it greatly reduced contact with Europeans for many years.
By 1830 many Europeans were living among the indigenous people of New Zealand.
Diseases such as measles and influenza brought over by the Europeans killed large numbers of Maori. The Europeans also
brought over a new weapon, the musket, which was highly sought after by tribes and shifted the balance of power among these tribes.
Due to the increasing amount of Europeans in New Zealand and the lawlessness thought to exist there Queen Victoria of England, by royal proclamation, annexed New Zealand
in January 1840. The British sent William Hobson with instructions to take possession of New Zealand.
In February 1840, Hobson negotiated the Treaty of Waitangi which some Maori chiefs signed and others soon signed. However some powerful
chiefs refused to sign. In return for accepting some form of British government the Treaty of Waitangi gave the Maori rights of British
subjects and guaranteed tribal autonomy and property rights.
In the 1860's due to friction between the Maori and English the New Zealand wars occurred. This resulted in the British taking large
amounts of Maori land as punishment for what they considered a rebellion.
In 1862 and 1865 the Native Land Acts resulted in the Maori losing almost all of their land.
After this the Maori population dropped drastically and by the late 19th century it seemed like the Maori people and culture would disappear
assimilating into the European population.
Maori Modern History
Today the Maori people and culture are alive and well. This is largely due to several Maori politicians who saw the need
to assimilate with the Europeans while maintaining the unique Maori culture. This has caused a steady increase in the Maori
population and use of the traditional Maori language.