New Zealand’s indigenous people came from tropical Polynesia more than 1000 years ago. Learning to live in New Zealand shaped their thinking and their beliefs until they became Te Maori, a race clearly distinct from other Polynesian cultures.
The first sign of a major land mass was a build up of white cloud in the distance. Kupe’s wife, Hine-te-aparangi, called out “He ao he ao! He aotea! He aotearoa” (“A cloud, a cloud! A white cloud! A long white cloud!), and so the land was named Aotearoa – ‘Land of the long white cloud’. After circumnavigating the North and South Islands of Aotearoa, Kupe and his crew returned to Hawaiki with treasures such as preserved moa flesh and pounamu (greenstone).
Today Maori live throughout New Zealand, and many are actively involved with keeping their culture and language alive. Within any Maori community, the marae provides a focus for social, cultural and spiritual life. The term marae describes a communal ‘plaza’ area that includes a wharenui (meeting house) and wharekai (dining room).
Maori people define themselves by their iwi (tribe), hapu (sub-tribe), maunga (mountain) and awa (river). Whanau is the name given to family – the term embraces immediate family, in-laws and all those connected by blood ties.
The tradition of oral history – the telling of ancient stories, myths and legends – continues today. On many marae, elders teach tribal lore, etiquette and genealogy.
They also retell the stories that form the basis of Maori beliefs, including the story of how Maui fished up the North Island.
Maori tourism in New Zealand offers visitors a unique experience that provides an insight into the indigenous people of New Zealand. This includes Maori culture, traditions and activities.
There is a huge range of activities available – from guided Waka tours in the Abel Tasman National Park, cultural heritage trips on the mighty Whanganui River, or visiting the Haka Pa village in Queenstown.
You can discover Tane Mahuta, the Maori God of the Forest or see New Zealand’s largest urban marae in Christchurch (Nga Hau E Wha), or gather kai (food) with Te Hikoi Maori in Nelson.