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Native Maori Culture in New Zealand

Native Maori Culture in New Zealand

The first Maori settlers in New Zealand arrived aboard a number of great canoes from the island called Hawaiki, from French Polynesia about 1000 years ago.

Aroha: Aroha is often translated as 'Love' but because English is one of the youngest languages and has developed throughout an unusual period in history that focuses almost entirely on what is perceptible by the five senses (the senses of intellect and ego) the scope of the word Aroha requires an exploration, not a translation. The full meaning of the word does not exist in an equivalent English word. The root word "Aro" has many meanings, but the Williams Maori dictionary (1st edition 1844,  6th edition 1957) gives one as "Mind, seat of feelings" and "Ha" is defined as "breath", and in Maori, this refers to the breath of life.  Aroha is the creative force that comes from the spirit. Aroha as an operational principle presumes the universe to be abundant, with more opportunities than there are people. In social interaction, it seeks the best in people and draws it out, yet is firm in not accepting aggression, greed, recycled ignorance, or other behaviours that are damaging. Aroha in action is generous.  Aroha in group meetings seeks unity and balance. Aroha in practice is intelligent, a unified intelligence of the heart, soul and mind. Aroha is universal and known by all peoples of all cultures. However, with the distractions of life, people can lose connection with aroha. 

Business and Iwi  (tribal) wealth
Iwi trusts are developing into big business. They are growing their investment assets at a rate 50 percent faster than community trusts. 
Example: NGAI Tahu’s economic growth reflects the general expansion of Maori enterprises and the Maori asset base which was estimated to reach more than $36billion by 2010. Iwi investment can be seen as adding solidity to an economy which is otherwise subject to unpredictable international flows of capital. 

Numbers
In 2001 Māori comprised approximately 15% (526,281 people) of New Zealand’s population. This figure is forecast to reach 16.6% (750,000) by 2021.

Location
Today the Māori people are more diverse and dispersed than at any other time in their history. Some continued to live in their traditional tribal areas. Most, however, lived elsewhere, usually in urban centres. In 2001, 64% of Māori were living in the main urban areas and only 16% in rural areas. Many also lived in other countries, with over 70,000 in Australia and up to 10,000 in Britain.

Language
The Māori language is an official language of New Zealand, and in recent years has undergone a revival. However, it is still threatened and, according to the 2001 census results, was spoken by only one in four Māori. Approximately 30,000 non-Māori could speak the language.

Culture
Māori culture is going through enormous change, with the establishment of new institutions and organisations. These include: 

  • The rearrangement and strengthening of tribal structures and councils
  • The recapitalisation of tribally owned assets
  • The establishment of over 20 Māori radio stations and a television channel
  • Political representation, with 16 MPs of Māori background in Parliament in 2004
  • The creation of institutions where teaching and learning are conducted substantially in the Māori language. In 2001 there were over 500 kōhanga reo (language nests), teaching over 10,000 preschool children; over 50 kura kaupapa Māori (teaching schoolchildren in full Māori-language immersion programmes); and three whare wānanga (tertiary institutes).

Prominent people
In the early 2000s, a number of Māori individuals were regarded as major national figures or had international reputations in their chosen fields. Among them were the opera singer Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, film director Lee Tamahori, child actor Keisha Castle-Hughes, golfer Michael Campbell, artist Ralph Hotere, and writers Patricia Grace and Witi Ihimaera.

Traditions and culture:

  • Maori nationality did not exist before the arrival of Europeans; they referred to themselves by tribal affiliations
  • Maori developed a strong social structure based on tribal and family association and have their own mythology and religion
  • Maori have always had a deep attachment to the land, culture, and traditions, which have and still are creating the unique nature of New Zealand
  • Many Maori treasure their language, art, and culture and there is a cultural revival
  • Cultures have different perspectives of time.  The western corporate perspective has a very limited view on time, focusing on the development of the present and only a short time into the future, usually their lifetime. Maori have a much wider view of time, encompassing past, present and future into the decision-making process
  • Maori believe that there were two worlds; Te Kauwae Raro – the seen world, where we live, and Te Kauwae Runga the unseen world, where our ancestors and the gods live
  • The warrior spirit gained the Maori a fearsome reputation and is one of the reasons why they have been prominent in almost every sport played in NZ
  • The haka, a traditional challenge performed before battle is now often performed before sporting games
  • The Maori culture retains a prominent role in New Zealand and since 1987 Maori has been an official language, alongside English
  • The traditional meeting house of the Maori, the Marae, still plays an important role in social, political, and ceremonial activities
  • Tangata whenua (people of the land) customs and traditions are of interest to visitors.  Through tangata whenua support for tourism, customs will be observed but not disrupted.


Click here for more information about Maori culture.