New Zealands Maori originated from Hawaii


The exact time of their arrival is also not certain. After centuries in New Zealand alone, European settlers came and tried to impose their way of life on the Maori.

Legends about the arrival of the Maori

"My ancestors came in two-hulled boats, catching the wind with triangular fibrous sails and using natural navigational aids to guide them," writes Maori historian Buddy Mikaere.

"Our legends say that we already knew about this land. In the mythical past so far away, when the world was still young and the gods wandered the earth."

There are many legends surrounding the arrival of the Maori in New Zealand. One of them tells of Kupe, the seafarer. He sailed around the islands and eventually left part of his family behind to become the country's first residents.

The Maori name Aotearoa ("land of the long white cloud") is said to go back to Kupe's daughter - because on arrival she saw something white on the horizon and shouted: "He ao! He ao!" - "A cloud! A cloud!"

Living together in family groups

The only scientifically proven fact is that the Maori settled New Zealand between the eighth and the 14th centuries. They probably came in several waves from Southeast Asia, more precisely from Polynesia.

The newcomers found land that offered enough space to settle. They lived together in small family groups ("whanau"), as they were used to in their homeland. Over time, these became larger units, the "hapu", which formed the basic social structure of Maori society.

When the Maori settlers found out which regions of their new homeland were the most fertile, there was fighting over these areas. The resulting conflicts between different groups sometimes dragged on over several centuries in a cycle of violence and revenge. Because for the Maori there was nothing higher than "mana" - their honor.

First contact with Europeans

"The Maori lived in a form of society that was dominated by acts of war. All other aspects of life were guided by it. The Maori living space was far removed from other forms of society, so that there was no exchange of experience or technology transfer. , historian Mikaere describes his ancestors' dilemma while they were alone in New Zealand.

It was foreseeable, however, that meeting strangers would also cause problems. In 1642, the Dutch navigator Abel Tasman was the first European to set foot on New Zealand soil. The Englishman James Cook traveled and mapped the North and South Islands in 1769 and described the people living there as "intelligent and daring".

Between weal and woe: Consequences of European settlement

From then on, more and more European settlers came to New Zealand - especially the British. On the one hand, the Maori benefited from contact with the western world: They got an impression of a different lifestyle, got to know new technologies and useful objects, such as nails.

But the European settlement of New Zealand also had serious disadvantages for the Maori: The newcomers brought in their diseases, against which the locals had no antibodies and from which they died in large numbers - for example from flu or measles.

In addition, the armed conflicts between the Maori took on completely different dimensions because they were now able to use the rifles brought by the Europeans. It is estimated that the number of Maori fell by at least ten percent during this period.

In addition, more and more lawlessness spread across the country - to which the British crown reacted in 1840: They sent a governor to New Zealand, and on February 6, the island state became a British colony through the Treaty of Waitangi. It is considered to be the founding document of New Zealand.

Violent resistance against the British colonial government

In the treaty, the Maori renounced all sovereign rights and became British citizens. In return, they were assured that they could keep their land. However, not all of the provisions in the contract were clear and gradually relaxed.

For example, the British colonial government increasingly allowed European settlers to settle on land whose ownership structure had not been clarified with certainty. The Maori resisted violently, resulting in a series of wars: the New Zealand Wars.

Between 1845 and 1872, with the support of British soldiers, settlers fought against the Maori. But there was also fighting between British soldiers and allied Maori with opponents of the colonial government. And in some cases settlers even sided with the Maori in conflicts.

The consequences of the New Zealand wars were extremely severe for the Maori: Most of them were expropriated - even those tribes that had behaved loyal to the government. The British Crown has now apologized for this policy.

The decline and renaissance of Maori society

For the Maori, the expropriations meant economic and social decline. In the meantime they were only a minority in their own country and hardly played a role socially and politically.

It was only after the First World War that a political movement, the "Young Maori Party", was formed to revive Maori society. They did not pursue a policy of demarcation, but supported the adoption of western knowledge and values, but at the same time the unconditional promotion of Maori traditions.

Compensation for the expropriations

Maori culture revived in the 1960s and the New Zealand government finally recognized it as a political force. In 1975 the Waitangi Tribunal was installed - an instance where Maori can file their legal claims under the Waitangi Treaty.

After more than 20 years of negotiations, the government and seven Maori tribes agreed in 2008 on comprehensive compensation. The treaty made these tribes the largest forest owners in New Zealand.

But even if the Maori, in contrast to other minorities - such as the North American Indians - are doing relatively well today: The around 800,000 Maori, who make up 16.5 percent of the population of New Zealand (as of 2019), are on average less educated and more often unemployed and sick than the rest of New Zealanders.