Maori People Essay

1707 words - 7 pages

The Maori People

The Maori people are the natives of New Zealand, or Aotearoa as they call the country. The word Aotearoa means ”long white cloud” in Maori language. Originally the Maoris are Polynesians who arrived to New Zealand in two waves of immigration. The first group came by canoes approximately 800 AD and the other arrived in 1300 AD. They have a rich culture and are well known for their art and tattoos. In 1769 the British explorer James Cook sat his foot on New Zealand and clamed it for Great Britain. A few years later, Europeans began to settle in the new British colony. Today the Maoris represent 14.6% of the total population of 4.3 million inhabitants. The purpose of this ...view middle of the document...

Today scientists believe that the country is purely mythical and has placed their origin in eastern Polynesia.
Before the Europeans arrived to New Zeeland the Maoris as group did not technically exist. They were living in tribes and did not see themselves as a homogenous group of people. Maori actually means “normal” or “ordinary ” and this was what the original inhabitants of New Zealand started to call themselves when the Europeans arrived. In the early 1800’s they arrived in large numbers bringing war and illness to the Maoris.

The British colonization of New Zealand had tremendous affects on the Maoris and their culture. When New Zealand became a colony in 1841, the Maori population had already suffered great loss due to the European immigration. Another impact was that this huge wave of British immigrants also brought Christian missionaries who forced on Christianity on the Maoris. This lead to the Maori people integrating pieces of Christian culture into there own, such as the prayer and the building of churches.
In the 1840-1860’s Britain confiscated approximately 40% of the Maori peoples land. This happened as a result of armed conflicts, contrary to the previous contract the Treaty of Waitangi between Britain and the Maoris, which granted them British citizenship and recognized their right to keep their land. Due to the British warfare and introduced deceases the Maori population had been reduced to 42 000 people in 1896, compared to 150 000 in the 1840’s. Today a part of the Maoris has been, or will be, compensated by the British and the New Zealand government for the land that was illegally taken from them. This is an on going process.

The Maoris has a wide range of interesting traditions. One of the most well known is the Haka , which is a war dance, originally performed by warriors before going into battle. The dance is supposed to show strength and courage and the words pronounced simultaneously are said in order to humiliate their opponent. The dance consists of hand gestures, claps, stomping and showing of tongue. To day the Haka is mostly used for entertainment. The most well known situation in which the Haka is performed is by the rugby team All Blacks of New Zealand before every game.
The traditional Maori way of welcoming a person or a group is called powhiri and involves speeches, singing and dancing. The ceremony ends with the hongi, which is done by pressing ones nose and forehead to those of the person being greeted. Hongi means breath of live and is a tradition thought to have descended from the gods.
Ta Moko is the name of the traditional tattoos of the Maori people. The Maoris have a unique way of making their tattoos. Instead of puncturing the skin with needles they use chisels to carve the skin leaving it with irregularities. Today the needles have replaced the chisels since they are quicker and safer, but the traditional patterns are still used. It is said about the Maoris that they brought this...

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