Māori Tribe from New Zealand

By Santhushya Hewapathirange 


My language is my awakening; my language is the window to my soul

Origins of Māori

Over centuries of isolation in East Polynesia, the Māori settlers developed their own unique culture which includes “ta moko” (a permanent tattoo process) that symbolises commitment and respect. Their traditional history describes their origins in terms of waves of migration that culminated in the arrival of a “great fleet” in the 14th Century from Hawaiki, a mythical land usually identified as Tahiti. This historical account provides the basis for traditional Māori social organisation and is generally supported by archaeological discoveries, which have dated the Māori arrival in New Zealand to about 1300 CE.


Dancing plays a big role in Māori culture

You may have heard of the “haka”, as the New Zealand rugby team performs it before the game begins. It is a ceremonial war dance of the Māori people which consists of synchronised stomping and chanting combined with vigorous physical motions. There’s actually a lot more to the popular dance of haka than solely being used to intimidate competitors. In fact, haka is often used as a means to greet notable guests, honour significant achievements, or pay respect at occasions or funerals

Tribe of tattoos

The permanent tattooing process is a symbol of this culture. Deep cuts are carved into the skin with a bone chisel and then dipped into an inky pigment made from vegetable caterpillars. During the tattooing process, the Māori are not allowed to eat until their wounds are healed. To prevent starvation, food and liquid are poured from a wooden funnel into the mouth to avoid contact with the skin.


Traditional Māori food is cooked underground

The Māori use a unique culinary technique known as “hangi”, where food is cooked in an underground hole. The hole where hangi is cooked is typically lined with hot rocks, aluminum foil, or wire baskets. Food varieties cooked through the hangi method often includes fish and chicken as well as some vegetables.

Greenstone is a treasure to Māori

Greenstone is quite literally a “green stone” found mostly in rivers in parts of Southern New Zealand. To the Māori, greenstone is precious and often passed from generation to generation. The Māori have used greenstone in many forms, and it can be found in items such as spears, hooks, and tools. Today, the Māori are still highly prevalent in New Zealand society, and they make up over 14% of the population. Furthermore, a 2013 census found that over 600,000 people living in New Zealand were of Māori descent, making them the country’s second largest ethnic population group.

Being a Māori

To most Māori, being Māori means recognising and venerating their Māori ancestors, having claims to family land, and having a right to be received as taangata whenua (“people of the land”) in the village of their ancestors. It means the acceptance of group membership and the shared recognition with members of the group of distinctly Māori ways of thinking and behaving. There has been some revival of the teaching of the Māori language, and in 1987, Māori was made an official language of New Zealand.