Maori Origins

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Maori are the native people of New Zealand. Our land is dramatic and diverse, with beautiful mountains, large forests and wide rivers that meander through fertile country to the sea. Our stories tell of the creation of this land, from the lava flow emerging out of the ocean to the birth of the mountains, rivers, trees and creatures. Our name for New Zealand is Aotearoa.

Maori oral history says we have been on the land from the beginning of time, but colonial history says we immigrated between 5oo and 1ooo years ago. Although there have been several waves of migration to our shores, colonial history often ignores the oral history that predates canoe migrations or describes our original ancestors as a different people.

Some of the first known peoples of Aotearoa were Kahui Maunga, Kahui Ao, Kahui Rere, Kahui Tu, Taitawaro, Ruaramore, Pananehu, Moriori,'W'aitaha, Kati Mamoe and Maru lwi tribes whose genealogies were linked to the mountains, rivers and land formations. They married into the successive migrations of Pacific people who arrived in canoes over a period of several hundred years. The first people of Aotearoa were known by the original names that described their uniquely different histories, but today their descendants are collectively known as "Maori."

Our ancestors were sea voyagers who traveled across the oceans in double-hulled canoes. They navigated by the stars, the flight of migrating birds, seasonal winds, ocean currents and the flowing patterns of waves. They developed a deep knowledge of the sea that enabled them to travel safely from island to island and across vast stretches of water. Our history and our culture evolved from the experiences of their journey through life.

The Maori were fierce fighting warriors, and intertribal wars, which were often prompted by revenge for some misdeed, were vicious. The defeated enemy was often subjected to slavery and acts of cannibalism.