Wednesday, December 14, 2011


The Māori are the native Polynesian people of New Zealand. The meaning of the word is “normal”, “natural” or “ordinary”. The total population approximates 800,000 people. Māori language is the second most widely-spoken language after English in New Zealand. Places where you can find Māori are New Zealand, Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada. According to the traditions, “Māori” distinguished ordinary people from deities and spirits. Tangata whenua is the term used to describe themselves, as being in relationship with a particular area of the land. The inhabitants of New Zealand were earlier referred to as New Zealanders or Natives. But, thanks to the Māori Purposes Act of 1947, the term Native was replaced by the term Māori. Since the Declaration of Independence of New Zealand in 1835, Māori have been involved in the national politics, with seven designated seats in the Parliament.

The current Māori religion is different from the traditional one. Nowadays, most of them have converted to Christianism. Traditional Māori religion believed that everything, including natural elements and all living things were connected by common descent through whakapapa or genealogy. Accordingly, all things were thought of as possessing a life force. Tapu and mana were the main traditional concepts. Tapu was a supernatural condition that could be acquired by places, things and people, which gave them a sacred quality. Certain people and objects contained mana, a spiritual power or essence. In the early 19th century, many Māori embraced Christianity and its concepts. Large numbers of converts joined the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, several new mixed religions arose, combining various aspects of Christianity with traditional and non-traditional Māori philosophies. Furthermore, the number of Māori Muslims grew rapidly at the end of the 20th century.

Concerning Māori culture, it can be described as a rich and varied one which includes traditional and contemporary arts. Traditional arts such as carving, weaving, whaikorero (speeches of welcome), moko (tattoo) and kappa haka are practised throughout the country. Haka is defined as that part of the Māori dance repertoire where the men are to the fore with the women lending vocal support in the rear. More than any aspect of Māori culture, this complex dance is an expression of the passion, vigour and identity of the race. Since the original "All Black" team of "New Zealand Natives" the haka has been closely associated with New Zealand rugby. Today Māori culture also includes art, film, television, poetry, theatre, hip-hop. Māori is an oral culture rich with stories and legends. Its language has a logical structure and very consistent rules of pronunciation. Eventually, the majority of place names in New Zealand are of Māori origin.

According to the most reliable evidence, initial settlement of New Zealand occurred around 1280. However the first contacts between Māori and Europeans did not happen before 1780. The tribes which were in close contact with Europeans began to use fire weapons. This lead to internal power struggles known as The Musket Wars, resulting in a reduction of the local population. In 1840, Queen Victoria annexed New Zealand by royal proclamation. The Treaty of Waitangi, negotiated by the English politician William Hobson, guaranteed Māori property rights, tribal autonomy and the rights of British subjects in exchange of accepting the British sovereignty. From this moment onwards, land properties became the object of many conflicts. Although many Māori blended in the European way of life, most of them kept their own cultural identity. On the late 19th century, successful Māori politicians emerged and tried to improve the status of their people. Later on, Māori underwent a cultural revival. Nowadays, Māori has become an official language taught in many New Zealand schools.

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