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The Arrival of The Maori in New Zealand




Hongi by Robyn Kahukiwa

Hongi Prints at NZ Fine Prints

Before the Maori arrived in primordial New Zealand, it was a mysterious land where the trees were filled with copious bird and insect life.

The most tuneable, melodious music filled the air as millions of creatures seemed to strain their throats to participate in this gigantic orchestra.

Occasionally the booming calls of the Moa added to the exuberance and beauty of this natual sound.

Giant eagles could be seen soaring and circling, their superiority of the skies totally unchallenged.

It was to this ancient, forested kingdom, surrounded by 18,000 km of coastline, home to abundant fish species, bird life, shell food and marine mammals, developed over millions of years, that the Great Maori migration occurred.

From whence they came?...and why?...has led to much speculation, although, thanks to well preserved evidence of material culture, there is no doubt the major source of Polynesian immigration to New Zealand was the islands of East Polynesia.

Whatever the answer, the Great Maori migration to New Zealand, is a source of fascinating interest.

Some reputable historians say they came from Rarotonga in the Cook Islands, and from Tahiti and Raiatea in the Society Islands, in sea voyaging canoes over a period of several centuries, the last arrivals making landfall over six hundred years ago.

The canoes of the last migration period may have come to New Zealand singly or at most, in pairs as double canoes, but however they came or whenever they came, it has been convenient to refer to these as the canoes of the "Great Fleet".


Maori: a Photographic and Social History

Maori: a Photographic and Social History by Michael King

Mau Moko: The World of Maori Tattoo

Mau Moko: The World of Maori Tattoo By Ngahuia Te Awekotuku

More Native Culture and History Books at Fishpond.

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Aotea, Tokomaru, Kurahaupo, Te Arawa, Takitimu, Mataatua, Tainui, Horouta, to mention the most famous of them - famous because the Sagas, the traditions, the genealogies pertaining to them are less blurred than those of canoes of earlier periods.

These Polynesians who came in many, many canoes at different times from as early as A.D.600 to as late as A.D.1350 came to call themselves the Maori.

At first they were fishermen, fowlers, and hunters of the various species of the huge and now extinct Moa bird. Leading a nomadic life, they lived where they could find food, warmth, and shelter.

According to their tradition, the kumara which became the most important vegetable of the Maori, was not brought to New Zealand until the last migration period (1300-1350).

Its introduction changed the life of the Maori from that of the nomadic hunter, to that of a more permanent way of life in settled communities.



Ana Rupene & Child by Gottfried Lindauer
Prints by NZ Fine Prints


Both men and women of the Maori race were of fine physique and handsome features - they were people of high intelligence, courage and initiative, with a great love and appreciation of nature.

Because of these attributes they evolved into a nation of orators, singers, carvers of great skill, weavers and builders.

In time they lived in stockaded villages or pas.

Each tribe had an entity, and owned the land in the area in which they lived.

The construction of their houses and forts was a marvel of original thinking and inventiveness.

The design of the carved panels which ornamented their chief's and communal buildings revealed an artistry and creativity that is now acknowledged by expert observers from many countries to be the highest form of Polynesian art.

The source of their inspiration was often drawn from nature, though many had ancestral and traditional origins.

Maori Songs:

Kiri Te Kanawa

FREE SAMPLE - / Kiri Te Kanawa

Polynesian Songs

Polynesian Songs - Artist: Te Runga Rawa

More Polynesian Music check out at Fishpond Bookstore.

The pa had several main types of building, though there were lesser ones. The wharerunanga, the meeting house outside which was the marae; the wharewananga, the house for instruction in occult lore.

The wharepuni, a closely built house with three layers of raupo in the walls for warmth, was the sleeping place; the whareumu, the separate kitchen in which food was cooked.

The chief had his own whare, the name given to a dwelling for one family.

The most important person in a village was the chief. He held this position by right of his lineage - often back to a member of one of the canoes of the great fleet.

He was succeeded by his eldest son. After the family of the chief and his close relations came the Tohunga, who was a combination of doctor, scholar and priest.


Maori Bone Manaia Fish Pendant

Bone Manaia Fish Pendant
This is one of the largest and most beautiful pendant from Shopenzed.com

This Maori bone carved in the South Island of New Zealand, is in the form of a supernatural being, the Manaia ( pronounced Ma-nigh-uh). The Manaia is a spiritual guardian, to ward off danger and protect against intruders. It acts as a provider and protector over the sky, earth and sea. (approximately 4 3/4" (12cm) long)



The marae, the open space in front of the wharerunanga or meeting house, was where tribal functions took place.

Visitors were welcomed with warmth and often gifts. Precedence was given to a tangihanga, similar to our lying in state of a person after death.

Funeral orations were given in homage, and friends and relations came to mourn. Every ceremony on the marae was conducted according to rigid protocol.

Here too, tribal matters were discussed by the chief and his elders.

Those who could marshal facts, and present them in a speech framed in their own particular form of oratory were held in the highest esteem by their people, and still are to this day.

The Maori people have a vivid and imaginative way of expressing their thoughts, and with a vocabulary of 30,000 words, it is no wonder that they have produced many great speakers and poets.

For instance, Ka pu te ruha, ka hao te rangatahi (when the old net is cast aside, the new net goes a-fishing - meaning that when a man grows too old to work his son takes his place); and a greedy, but lazy man is described as "a deep throat but shallow sinews".

The high level of culture which the Maori developed in complete isolation is universally acknowledged, and is a tribute to his intellectual and artistic qualities, and not least to his ingenuity in adapting to a colder and more rugged environment, by which he ensured not only his survival, but by shaping these conditions to his needs and purposes, greatly improved his manner of life.

This culture was flourishing at the time of Captain Cook's first visit in 1769 and is generally referred to as "The Classic Period of Maori Culture".


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