In Maori History it’s noticed that the first mass arrival of Polynesian settlers started around 1280. They traveled to New Zealand on their war canoes called waka. These people were the ancestors of present-day Maori. The historical period between 1100 and 1300 is called “Nga Kakano”.  Most of settlements were sited along the coast – nowadays recognized as the Otago region. There were very few weapons at that time; Most of tribes lived peacefully. “Te Tipunga” is the classic period of the history which runs from 1300 to 1500. It’s the time when they developed many aspects of culture. Intense earthquakes, defoliation of many settlements caused by natural catastrophes, a colder climate and other reasons influenced their culture.

First Europeans in New Zealand

Abel Tasman

The first European to discover New Zealand was Abel Janszoon Tasman, Dutch explorer who arrived to new land on December 13, 1642. In 1769 James Cook, British explorer, made his first visit. After them, in the 1780s many explorers, whalers and sealers travelled to New Zealand. It affectingly influenced the aborigine population.  In 1806 first European women arrived.  About 2000 Europeans worked for varied positions like slaves or even as personal advisers and much more. They worked in the villages among the indigenous people. Some of them abandoned their own culture and identified themselves as natives. From 1805 to 1840 tribes received many muskets led to the Musket Wars during which the wars among tribes were perpetual. Several tribes have completely disappeared. The others were destroyed as a result of European diseases.

Musket Wars

Ngapuhi TribeThe inter-tribal wars between 1818 and 1833 got the name of “The Musket Wars,” which were New Zealand-wide. All tribes were trading to obtain muskets. Ngapuhi tribe tried to buy as many of these valuable weapons as they could. Hongi Hika, their leader, acquired 300 muskets and they gained success during these wars. Tens of thousands of tribe members died and much more were enslaved or became refugees. Muskets changed the face of inter-tribal conflict and altered the territorial boundaries of different tribes. Many were forced to free large areas for European settlement.

New Zealand Wars

New Zealand Wars, also called  the Land Wars were a series of equipped battles between native people and the first Europeans during the period from 1845 to 1872. It involved around 18,000 British and 4000-5000 native warriors. The main goal of these wars was to defeat Maori King Movement as they were refusing to accept British authority.

By the end of 1930s native-born people decided to sign a treaty with British government to get protection from various sailors, traders and convicts. On 6 February, 1840 representatives of the British Crown and various chiefs signed the Treaty of Waitangi which guaranteed that Maori tribes would retain their lands and forests in return of surrendering sovereignty to Britain. From the 1840s colonists fought to free the rest of the North Island for settlement. At that time Robert FitzRoyAuckland was uninhabited but desirable area for Europeans. They bought this area for a tiny amount in 1840. This purchase became the basis of interracial conflict. On 17 June 1843 a fight broke out between Ngati Toa tribe and an armed party of New Zealand Company settlers over the purchase of the land in the Wairau valley. Robert FitzRoy – the new Governor – investigated and concluded that “white men were in the wrong”, no further action was made. FitzRoy’s successor was George Grey, who tried to secure Whanganui and Wellington against the followers of TeRauparaha, the leader of Ngati Toa tribe. Treaty wasn’t fulfilled by Europeans as more and more settlers arrived to New Zealand and native people were forced to sell their lands to settlers. By 1858 there were more Europeans than Natives. In 1858 Te Wherowhero was elected as the first Maori King. The goal of Kingitanga was to unite tribes against selling land. This movement was a concern for European Settlers and second wave of wars begun which lasted until 1972. There were nearly 3000 casualties during New Zealand Wars and natives were major part of them. Large areas of the land were confiscated from the native people. The confiscations had a long-lasting impact on the economic and social progress of the indigenous people.


Modern Times

The number of Maori people has expanded extensively during the last 100 years. Their traditions and culture has been brought back to life. Songs, dances, traditional art and the Te Reo are being taught in New Zealand schools. It has also been improvement in their legal and social status. Their role in politics has been favorable since the late 19th century. They had to go through the assimilation process. Today these people live in European-style houses and their children go to English-speaking schools. They wear European-style clothes; vote in elections along with the white  people, called Pakeha. They do not live together in big family groups – tribes, like they used to live before the first Europeans. Today every family still has a close contact with other families; such Maraefamilies often own land together or have an own marae (farmyard), which consists of several important buildings, a meeting hall, a dining hall and a big yard. There they debate different issues, or celebrate birthdays andweddings etc. The Marae is the basis of their social life. These people are still proud to be Maori having different culture. They are passionate, humble and friendly but also fierce when they need to be, they are survivors.  Diseases and wars reduced their population to only 40,000. Today, there are about 790,000 people with the native ancestry. Spirituality, respect and belonging to an extended family have given them strength and allowed them to hold on their culture in the world.