A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE MAORI

By Tim Lambert

The Maori arrived in New Zealand in the 10th century AD. They called the new land Aotearoa, which means Land of the Long White Cloud. The Maori brought dogs and rats. They also brought yams and kumara or sweet potatoes and gourds. The Maori also ate fern roots. There was also an abundance of seafood in New Zealand. The Maori hunted dolphins, whales and seals and they ate fish and shellfish. They also hunted large, flightless birds called moa - until they became extinct.

Maori society was tribal. Each person belonged to a family or whanau, a sub tribe or hapu and the full tribe or iwi. Warfare was common in New Zealand. The Maori built fortified settlements called pa. They fought with long wooden clubs called taiah and short wooden clubs called patu. They also fought with short jade clubs called mere. People captured in war became slaves.

The Maori are famous for their woodcarvings. They also make pendants or tikis from whalebone. The Maori are also famous for their tattoos or moko, which were made with a bone chisel, a mallet and blue pigment.

The first European to see New Zealand was a Dutchman called Abel Tasman who arrived in 1642. Ominously Europeans fought with the Maori and the Europeans were not keen to return. However the new land was named New Zealand after a Dutch province.

Europeans left New Zealand alone until 1769 when Captain James Cook arrived in his ship The Endeavour. The first encounters with the Maori were violent so Cook called the place Poverty Bay and sailed away. However later, at Mercury Bay, Cook managed to befriend the local Maori. He went on to circumnavigate New Zealand and to accurately map it. Cook made two more voyages to New Zealand in 1773 and 1777. Furthermore other European explorers came, French and Spanish.

Towards the end of the 18th century sealers began to sail to New Zealand. The first group arrived on South Island in 1792. Then, at the beginning of the 19th century whalers came to New Zealand. Sailors began to cut wood from New Zealand for masts and spas and a small group of Europeans settled there. In the early 19th century some Europeans began buying land from the Maori.

Moreover there were isolated conflicts between the Maori and Europeans but generally relations were peaceful. The Maoris traded food and flax for European goods - including muskets. Imported muskets made Maori warfare much more bloody. The so-called musket wars were fought between 1819 and 1825. Furthermore Europeans brought diseases to New Zealand to which the Maoris had no resistance. On the other hand they did bring potatoes and pigs.

Meanwhile missionaries went to New Zealand. The first was Samuel Marsden who arrived in 1814. However at first the missionaries had little success. The first Roman Catholic missionaries arrived in 1838.

Then in 1817 the laws of New South Wales were extended to New Zealand. However, in reality there was little law and order among the European settlers and some of them appealed to the British government for help. So in 1833 the government sent a man named James Busby as 'official British Resident'. The British government were concerned about the way people were buying land from the Maori and they wanted it to be properly regulated. Busby's job was to unite the Maori tribes into a federation that the British could deal with. In 1838 Busby was replaced with a man named William Hobson.

At first the British government reluctant to make New Zealand a colony. However they changed their minds when they feared the French were about to do so. In 1840 William Hobson persuaded the Maori to accept annexation by the treaty of Waitangi. The Maori accepted the sovereignty of the British crown. In return the Maoris became British subjects and they were guaranteed possession of their land. However despite the treaty the British and the Maori soon quarrelled. Also in 1840 Hobson made Auckland the capital of New Zealand.

Meanwhile the Maori grew disenchanted with the treaty of Waitangi and in 1844 a chief named Hone Keke cut down the British flag (symbol of British authority in New Zealand) several times. He sacked the town of Kororareka and he fought a 2-year war with the British. However he was eventually defeated.

The white population of New Zealand grew at a tremendous rate. By 1861 it was almost 100,000. By 1881 it was nearly 500,000. However the Maori were increasingly discontented. Some Maoris in North Island appointed a king in 1858. In 1860 simmering Maori resentment broke out into war. The fighting dragged on until 1872. As a result of the war large amounts of land was confiscated from rebel tribes.

Furthermore the Maori suffered from diseases introduced to New Zealand by Europeans and their numbers declined drastically. In 1769, when Cook arrived, there were about 100,000 Maori. By 1896 their numbers had fallen to 42,000.

By 1956 the white population of New Zealand reached about 2 million. The Maori population was about 135,000.

However in 1975 the Treaty of Waitangi Act was passed. It formed a tribunal to examine Maori land claims. However many Maori continue to suffer deprivation.

The Australian Aborigines

The Native Americans

A history of New Zealand

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