Maori People and Culture
ANT 101 Introduction to Cultural Anthropology
Maori People and Culture
New Zealanders often associate the word “M?oritanga” with their culture. The words meaning is “being like the M?ori people”. The Maori do not call their home New Zealand, but rather, Aotearoa, which means ‘land of the long white cloud’, as named by Kupe, who discovered New Zealand. The Maori themselves did not call themselves Maori until the English came and they felt a need to set themselves apart from the newcomers. The word Maori means ‘ordinary.” The Maori language is known as Te Reo Maori, spoken by fully twenty three percent of the population, even though only 15.6% of the population claim Maori heritage. The Maori language is gaining in popularity through cultural revival projects which share the knowledge and culture of the Maori people with the non-Maori in New Zealand as well as with tourists who visit New Zealand. The Maori culture and history is a rich one that should be preserved, and celebrated by all of New Zealand, not just the percentage of those who claim to have Maori blood.
Arrival and Settlement
The Maori are a Polynesian people located in New Zealand. It is theorized that the Maori colonized the island in the 14th century, though they may have arrived as early as 1150 AD. It is widely believed, despite being Polynesian, they originated in mainland China, though other anthropologists have them originating in Hawaii or Savaii, the largest island that is part of the Samoan island chain. (R. N. Hilmona, 2001, Helicon, 2010) The Maori were an excellent seafaring culture, which includes knowledge of astronomy, due to the reliance on stars and their positions for navigation at night. It was this knowledge that made it possible to settle in New Zealand. Depending on where they were settled, the Maori way of life varied. Most of the Maori stayed on the coast, or near it and their initial settlements. Because of this, many Maori were farmers, gatherers, and fishers. The Maori were a pre-iron civilization, their tools and weapons were made from wood, bone, obsidian, or greenstone. Once the native flightless birds, the moa, were hunted to extinction, their diet became based on kumara, otherwise known as the sweet potato, fern, roots, fish, and shellfish. (W.J.Schafer, 1998) As the Maori settled into their new home, they became more horticultural in nature, rather than just hunters and fishermen. While the Maori were originally relatively peaceful amongst themselves at first, the period known as Te Tipunga, which means ‘the growth’, occurred the Maori culture changed. This cultural change was heralded by a cooling of the environment, tsunamis that devastated a great deal of the coastal settlements, the extinction of many types of food, including the moa, and earthquakes on New Zealand’s south island.
Tribal organization, culture, and warfare
The Maori people are defined by their iwi, or tribe, and their hapu, or clan. Members of the hapu were treated as extended family, rather than neighbors. Because of this, the Maori encouraged to pick their life partners from within the hapu, however if two tribes who had been at war wanted to form a lasting peace, it was not uncommon for the aristocratic families in the clans to intermarry, to encourage the peace to have a longer lasting effect. An important thing to know about the Maori is that their lineage is described using the term “whakapapa”. According to the Maori, “Papa” is anything flat and broad, such as a slab, or a large rock. “Whakapapa” is to place in layers, one atop the previous one; so, to the Maori, the term ‘Whakapapa” is both the proper order for genealogy as well as a verbal recitation of their heritage. (R. N. Hilmona, 2001) For the Maori, the whakapapa is more than just a genealogy tool; it is also something of a religious significance to the Maori people. If one tried and...
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