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The Indigenous People of New Zealand: the Maoris

The Indigenous People of New Zealand: the Maoris

By on Apr 13, 2018 in Blog |

The Maoris are the indigenous people of New Zealand. They are the most recent of indigenous populations to be located in a certain area, as the Maoris have only been present in the country since around 1250. They are actually from the Polynesian Islands and first arrived in New Zealand by canoes. As they settled on the Islands, their isolation resulted in them adopting their own culture and language, which was total different from where they had originated from.

As Europeans colonized New Zealand, they generally got on well with Maoris and the relationship they had was similar to how the Canadian indigenous people had co-existed with their first European settlers. The Maoris did suffer from the disease that were imported into the country and it led to a huge drop in their population.

Since the start of the 20th century the population has recovered and the New Zealand Government has been proactive in using laws to protect the rights of the Maoris and ensure that the there are no social injustices. Currently, 600,000 people who live in New Zealand claim to be Maori and this makes up 15 % of the population.  At times the association with being a Maori is seen as a badge of honor and there are no doubts that they are well respected in New Zealand.

Maoris performing a war dance

However, it has not been all plain sailing for the Maori population. Their average life expectancy is not as high as it is for other ethnic groups in the country and they tend to suffer from more illnesses than other groups. There is a real issue with the standard of education, with only 47% of Maori school leavers being awarded NCEA certificates higher than level one. This is compared to 74% of European leavers achieving higher and 87% of Asian graduates doing the same.

This large unqualified group of the population has resulted in more prison sentences, with half of total prisoners being Maori. Social problems also plague Maori homes, with Maori women and children being more likely to experience domestic violence than any other ethnic group. Despite these negative images, the Maori are still respected for their culture and customs. As the Maoris settled in New Zealand, they were quick to practice their agricultural methods that had been successful back on their Polynesian Islands.

The Maoris were horticulturalists, planting many crops that they had brought over the Ocean with them. They flourished in New Zealand, but different tribes were not always at peace with each other. There was a time when war would break out and some tribes would turn to cannibalism to celebrate their victory.

Billy Stead the Maori who was vice captain of the 1905 All Blacks

The warriors were synonymous with war dances, such as “the Hakka”, and tattoos that men would adorn their bodies with. When the Europeans first arrived, the Maoris took straight away to the sports that the Europeans introduced, such as rugby and cricket.

With Rugby soon becoming the national sport of the country, the Maoris contributions to the sport throughout the years has undoubtedly raised their profile in all levels of New Zealand society. These were not just the minor performers but the real star players like Michael Jones and Jonah Lomu. From as early as 1905 the All Blacks vice-captain was Billy Stead who himself was a Maori from Southland.

They have also represented New Zealand on the cricket pitch. Today both Jesse Ryder and Ross Taylor are Maoris who play for the national side, and Taylor has even captained them. Winston Reid is a Maori who plays professional football in England for West Ham United, as well as captaining the national side. The character of the Maori people has certainly helped them to become a respected part of New Zealand life.