Māori culture is the culture of the Māori of New Zealand (an Eastern Polynesian people) and forms a distinctive part of New Zealand culture. Within the Māori community, and to a lesser extent throughout New Zealand as a whole, the word Māoritanga is often used as an approximate synonym for Māori culture, the Māori suffix -tanga being roughly equivalent to the qualitative noun ending "-ness" in English.
Polynesian Triangle 
Māori cultural history is inextricably tied into a larger Polynesian phenomenon. Aotearoa (New Zealand) is the southwestern apex of the Polynesian Triangle, a region of the Pacific Ocean with three island groups at its corners: the Hawaiʻi islands, Rapa Nui (Easter Island), and New Zealand (Aotearoa in Māori). The many island cultures within the Polynesian Triangle share similar languages derived from a proto-Malayo-Polynesian language used in south-east Asia 5,000 years ago. Polynesians also share cultural traditions, such as religion, social organisation, myths, and material culture. Anthropologists believe that all Polynesians have descended from a south Pacific proto-culture created by an Austronesian (Malayo-Polynesian) people that had migrated from Southeast Asia.
The other main Polynesian cultures are:
Voyage to Aotearoa 
Polynesian seafarers were ocean navigators and astronomers. Polynesians were capable of travelling long distances. Few facts are known about their methods of navigation. Comparison can be made with the earlier Viking migration of 985 AD. At that time, 14 of 25 longships reached their Greenland destination from Iceland, a distance of about 320 km, according to the Icelandic sagas. The Vikings navigated with a maritime sundial to steer along a line of latitude. Many return voyages were made from Iceland to Norway sailing along about 65 degrees north. It is generally accepted[by whom?] that Polynesian voyages were deliberate and not accidental. Evidence from surviving modern Pacifica cultures has been used to reconstruct possible methods of navigation. The early settlement history of New Zealand is still not completely resolved. The most current reliable evidence strongly indicates that initial settlement of New Zealand occurred around 1280 CE.
The earliest identified proto-Māori settlement is located at Wairau Bay in the northeastern part of the South Island of New Zealand. The archaeology shows some typical East Polynesian cultural practices such as the method of burial were in use in New Zealand, as was the practice of using an umu (earth oven) to cook food.The Wairau Bay site was located at the northern end of what has been referred to in the South Island as the East Moa belt. Māori developed many distinctive cultural practices by the 18th century such as female infanticide, female suicide on the death of a partner, and cannibalism. Especially in the period 1805 to 1843, but probably prior to this, warfare was a regular part of life, although the death rate from warfare was far higher after about 1790. Vast amounts of labour were spent in building at least 5000 Pa (hill forts) in the north of New Zealand where most Māori lived after about 1550.
The East Polynesian ancestors of the Māori were hunters, fishers, and gardeners. After arriving in New Zealand, Māori had to rapidly adapt their material culture and agricultural practices to suit the climate of their new land, which was cold and harsh in comparison to the tropical island of Polynesia. Great ingenuity was required to grow the tropical plants they had brought with them from Polynesia, including taro, kumara, tī pore, gourds, and yams; this was especially difficult in the chillier southern parts of the country. The harakeke (flax plant) served as a replacement for coconut fronds and hibiscus fibre in the manufacture of mats, baskets, rope, fishing nets and clothing.
The rhizomes of Pteridium esculentum (aruhe) were used as a staple food, especially for exploring or hunting groups away from permanent settlements; much of the widespread distribution of this species in present-day New Zealand is a consequence of prehistoric deforestation and subsequent tending of aruhe stands on rich soils (which produced the best rhizomes). The rhizomes were air-dried so that they could be stored and became lighter; for consumption, they were briefly heated and then softened with a patu aruhe (rhizome pounder); the starch could then be sucked from the fibres by each diner, or collected if it were to be prepared for a larger feast. Patu aruhe were significant items and several distinct styles were developed.
Seasonal activities included gardening, fishing and the hunting of birds. Main tasks were separated for men and women, but there were also a lot of group activities involving food gathering and food cultivation, and warfare. Art was and is a prominent part of the culture as seen in the carving of houses, canoes, weapons, and other items of high status. The people also wore highly decorative personal ornaments, and people of rank often had their skin marked with extensive tā moko similar to tattooing.
With the growth of tourism and exposure of haka to international audiences on TV and at sporting competitions, Māori culture that was previously observed only in Māori society and social gatherings with a significant Māori aspect is increasingly seen as fundamental to New Zealand culture as a whole.
Cultural concepts 
- Mana – Power, prestige or authority.
- Tapu – Sacred, untouchable or under spiritual or religious protection.
- Ahi kaa – Cooking fires. Continued occupation of an area of land.
- Whāngai – open adoption of children
One of New Zealand's foremost historians Judith Binney says that maintaining and increasing the mana of whanau and hapu and loyalty within the group are unquestionably at the heart of Māori cultural concepts. She says that Māori cultural history is confusing to the uninformed as it consists of narrative-myths that stretch far back in time. Also confusing is that chronological time is irrelevant or distorted to the Māori cultural story, so a person living in the present may narrate a story about their family or hapu that happened centuries ago; nonetheless, the narrator appears as a contemporary figure in the myth. A key element of cultural leadership is to link the narrator to a well known historical figure with mana (prestige/authority power). This is why being able to recite the family history is so important. In Māori culture names of people and places are fluid. Individuals may change their name several times or have several different names that they use depending on the cultural situation. In the past, hapu changed names if they moved to another area where an alternative name was more positive. One of the main reasons for name fluidity was access to resources. As a hapu moved seasonally to utilise different resources its name changed to reflect an ancestor who had historical cultural rights to that resource. Binney says that being connected to a powerful hapu with many well known ancestors was important for protection and survival. As Māori communication was almost totally oral until well into the contact period, oral myth-narratives became more varied to match the needs of each hapu or whanau. Until the 1870s (100 years after first contact) nearly all Māori learnt formal English literacy from the bible. Māori adopted many of the biblical forms of story telling, such as parables, into their own culture, interweaving Māori mythology with Christian biblical dogma. Many well known Māori historical figures such as Te Kooti, Rua Te Kenana and King Tawhaio interpreted events using this myth -narrative form. Early Europeans, especially those unfamiliar with the nuances of Māori culture, found it hard to deal with complex matters such as health, ownership and authority. This is because Māori did not recognise the idea of cause and effect, which was at the heart of European learning since the Age of Enlightenment. If something went wrong in Māori family or hapu it was most likely that evil spirits would be blamed for putting a curse on the group. An accident would be blamed on failure to recite a karakia correctly. Illness was put down to breaking important tapu. In the 19th century, most Māori firmly believed in matakite or the ability to see into the future or make predictions. A standard form of matakite is that a well known ancestor (whose mana or reputation cannot be challenged) sang a song or made a prediction that an event would happen. A well known example of matakite is that the Ringatu leader Te Kooti predicted that Mt Tarawera would erupt in 1886. However the narrative of his prediction did not emerge until after the event. To Māori, the chronology was irrelevant because of Te Kooti's mana.
Culture Change by contact with Europeans 
Because of the very small number of Europeans who visited New Zealand in the 18th and early 19th century the core values of Maori culture were little altered,with Maori showing great ability to accept change bought by an advanced culture that offered many innovations and integrating these into their normal way of life . CMS missionary Henry Williams estimated that there were only 1100 Europeans in the North Island in 1839 with 200 being missionaries, about 20 were French and 50 American, with a total of about 500-600 Europeans in the Bay of Islands altogether. At the same time northern Maori population has been estimated by Ian Poole at about 30,000 to 40,00 with perhaps 2,000 mokai (slaves), although this number varied according to the ravages of war.
In the coastal South Island the Maori population was very small. Whalers set up shore stations along the southern and eastern coasts and formed Maori /European working communities. In the early 1800s it was common for chiefs to provide whalers with Maori wives, often their daughters. By the 1820s European men had married about 200 Maori women in the coastal area between modern Christchurch and Invercargill, about half of all the marriageable aged women in the South Island. Maori men were finding it hard to compete for wives. Contact with Europeans enabled Maori to access the material culture of England, the most advanced industrial nation in the world. Maori were generally very curious about European culture after initial misunderstandings and apprehension. It appears that because ships had all male crew northern Maori at least believed they were all homosexual. When an officer on Cook's ship indicated he wanted a sexual partner he was offered 2 boys by a chief. Marion Du Fresne gave northern Maori potatoes, wheat, onions, goats, pigs, chickens and other food to raise. Potatoes and pigs rapidly became a key part of Maori agriculture in the north but the new food was reserved for trading purposes almost exclusively with Maori still eating fish and fern roots, supplemented by Kumara. By 1800 the desire for iron objects such as large ships' nails overcame apprehension about boarding an anchored ship and this drove Maori trading behaviour, lasting until 1840. Desirable steel objects and blankets were at first traded for fish. Later, as Maori grew large areas of potatoes, (Hongi Hika had a 40 acre potato field) whalers would call into the Bay of Islands in particular to trade for fresh supplies. One significant change was the immediacy of reciprocation in trade. In tradition Maori tikanga, when an item was given there was no expectation of immediate response as gifted were mainly food which was governed by seasonal supply. When dealing with Europeans Maori learnt that immediate payment was expected. Gift giving was a different matter in Maori culture. Gifts were given to recognise mana (power or authority). Hongi Hika received a huge boost to his mana when he was not only seen by the King of England but received many presents from him. After this sign of approval and imagined endorsement Hongi became significantly more assertive and arrogant in his behaviour towards Europeans in New Zealand below the rank of royals and aristocrats, especially the low church CMS missionaries. At the height of the musket wars in the 1820s and 1830s, 60 to 90 ships per year put into the Bay of Islands. Maori demanded muskets, shot and powder and were prepared to pay a very high price in potatoes, flax and later timber spars to gain weapons for their wars against southern tribes. Northern Maori chiefs started a large sex trade using captured slave girls gained in these wars they had captured during their invasions of Auckland, Thames and Waikato. For decades CMS missionaries had very little influence over Maori in the north. Missionaries were appalled at the violent, seemingly arbitrary nature of Maori behaviour. They had no influence on warfare, slavery, sexual abuse of women, killing of female children or revenge killings. Cannibalism continued as before, except that increasingly Maori learnt to be less boastful about this act. Maori had learnt that too much barbaric behaviour would cause missionaries to give up and leave. Often the missionaries were subject to very stringent controls, such as the tight control of their food, by powerful chiefs whose protection they needed to survive the often violent inter hapu confrontations. It is evident that Maori restricted food supply to the missionaries and their families in order to force them to trade muskets. CMS missionary John King recorded in his journal that he could only get a pig for food if he sold Maori gunpowder. After some chiefs such as Hongi Hika went to England and mixed with wealthy aristocrats, the missionaries were usually treated with contempt. Maori abused and insulted them and some missionaries gave up and returned to England believing Maori could never be civilized.
Gradually Maori learnt to trade for money instead of goods.This was rare before 1834 but became increasingly common as more Maori worked as sailors on European ships whee they gained a good reputation as being strong capable workers. By the late 1830s most ships had about 8 Maori men in the crew, some of whom were the sons of chiefs,while others were slaves who had been sold to a captain by a chief. By 1839 a large proportion of the Maori trade goods was paid for in cash with Maori showing a strong preference for coins rather than paper bank notes. Northern Maori learnt that they could more easily hide cash from their relatives avoiding the traditional obligatory sharing of goods with their hapu. The period 1835 to 1840 completed the revolution in the north Maori economy with Maori abandoning many of their former trading habits and adopting those of the Europeans to the point where Maori became dependent on the flow of European goods to maintain their new way of life. Not all Iwi had regular contact with Europeans. In the Waikato regular contact did not start until 5 decades after contact in the north of New Zealand.
The most appropriate venue for any Māori cultural event is a marae,which is an enclosed area of land where a meeting house or wharenui (literally "big house") stands. A marae is the centre for much of Māori community life. Generally the Māori language is used in ceremonies and speeches, although translations and explanations are provided when the primary participants are not Māori speakers. Increasingly, New Zealand schools and universities have their own marae to facilitate the teaching of Māori language and culture.
The marae is a communal ceremonial centre where meetings and ceremonies take place in accordance with traditional protocols. The marae symbolises group unity and generally consists of an open cleared area in front of a large carved meeting house, along with a dining hall and other facilities necessary to provide a comfortable stay for visiting groups. On the marae official functions take place including formal welcomes, celebrations, weddings, christenings, reunions, and tangihanga (funerals). The older people have the authority on the marae, and they impart, primarily through oral tradition, traditions and cultural practices to the young people. These include genealogy, spirituality, oratory, and politics, and arts such as music composition, performance, weaving, or carving.
Marae protocols 
The details of the protocols, called "tikanga" or "kawa", vary by iwi but in all cases locals and visitors have to respect certain rules especially during the rituals of encounter. When a group of people come to stay on a marae, they are considered manuhiri (guests) while the hosts of the marae are known as tangata whenua. Should other groups of manuhiri arrive, the manuhiri who arrived previously are considered tangata whenua for the purposes of formally welcoming the new group.
Marae food 
Although marae have modern cooking facilities, the hāngi, a traditional way of cooking food in Polynesia, is still used to provide meals for large groups because the food it produces is considered flavourful. The hāngi consists of a shallow hole dug in the ground, in which a fire is prepared and stones are placed on the top. When the stones are hot, prepared food is placed on top of them, meat first and then vegetables such as kumara, potatoes and pumpkin. The hāngi is then covered with leaves or mats woven out of harakeke flax (or wet sacks) and soil is then heaped over the hāngi to seal the heat in to cook the food.
Marae events 
Like in pre-European times, marae continue to be the location of many ceremonial events, including birthdays, weddings, and anniversaries. The most important event located at marae are tangihanga. Tangihanga are the means by which the dead are farewelled and the surviving family members supported in Māori society. As indicated by Ka'ai and Higgins, "the importance of the tangihanga and its central place in marae custom is reflected in the fact that it takes precedence over any other gathering on the marae" (p. 90).
Marae oral tradition 
The history of individual tribal groups is kept by means of narratives, songs and chants, hence the importance of music, story and poetry. Oratory, the making of speeches, is especially important in the rituals of encounter, and it is regarded as important for a speaker to include allusions to traditional narrative and to a complex system of proverbial sayings, called whakataukī. Oral tradition includes song, calls, chants, haka and formalised speech patterns that recall the history of the people.
Events and activities 
Significant Māori cultural events or activities include:
- The hui or meeting, usually on a marae. It begins with a pōwhiri (a welcome). If a visitor is noteworthy, he or she may be welcomed with an aggressive challenge by a warrior armed with a taiaha (traditional fighting staff), who then offers a token of peace, such as a fern frond, to the visitor. Acceptance of the token in the face of such aggression is a demonstration of the courage and mana (charisma) of the visitor. The pōwhiri is highly structured, with speeches from both hosts and guests following a traditional format, their sequence dictated by the kawa (protocol) of that place, and followed by waiata, songs. Hui are held for business, for festivities or for rites of passage such as baptism, marriage and death. It is appreciated if foreign guests can say a few words in Māori and sing a song they are familiar with as a group.
- The haka – an action chant, often described as a "war dance", but more a chant with hand gestures and foot stomping, originally performed by warriors before a battle, proclaiming their strength and prowess by way of abusing the opposition. Now, this procedure is regularly performed by New Zealand representatives of rugby and rugby league teams before a game begins. There are many different haka; though, one, "Ka mate" by Te Rauparaha, is much more widely known than any other.
- Kapa haka (haka groups) often come together to practice and perform cultural items such as waiata or songs, especially action songs, and haka for entertainment. Poi dances may also form part of the repertoire. Traditional instruments sometime accompany the group, though the guitar is also commonly used. Many New Zealand schools now have a kapa haka as part of the Māori studies curriculum. Today, national kapa haka competitions are held where groups are judged to find the best performers; these draw large crowds. The common expression "kapa haka group" is strictly speaking, a tautology.
- Koha are gifts to the hosts, often of food or traditional items, though money is most commonly used today. Traditionally, the essence of koha is that it is voluntary and comes from the heart, so to specify the amount is contrary to its spirit. Increasingly, it is common for the koha to be a fixed sum per head that is communicated to the guests in private, so there is no embarrassment. Recipients rely on the donors' aroha (empathy), manaakitanga (cherishing) and wairua (spirit) to ensure that it is enough. Thanks for koha are accordingly warm.
- Matariki, "Māori New Year", celebrates the first rising of the Pleiades in late May or early June. Traditionally the actual time for the celebration of Matariki varies, with some iwi celebrating it immediately, others waiting until the rising of the next full moon. It is a day where they pay respect to the people they have lost but also gain over the last year that has passed. They celebrate the day and night with prayers, feast, love, singing and music. After lapsing for many years it is now becoming more widely celebrated in a range of ways and over the period of a week or month anywhere from early June to late July.
Films and books 
Films that feature Māori themes and culture include:
- Utu, 1983, loosely based on events from Te Kooti's War
- Ngati, 1987, set in 1948, looking at the threat of unemployment for a local Māori community.
- Boy, 2010, by Taika Waititi, coming-of-age comedy-drama
- Whale Rider, 2002 by Niki Caro, a 12-year-old girl's struggles for chiefly succession
- Once Were Warriors, 1994, graphic depiction of urban Māori and domestic violence
Māori take part fully in New Zealand's sporting culture with both the national Rugby league and Rugby Union teams have featured many Māori players, and other sports also feature many Māori players. There are also national Māori rugby union, rugby league and cricket teams, which play in international competitions, separate from the main national ones.
Māori Television is a New Zealand TV station broadcasting programmes that tries to make a significant contribution to the revitalisation of te reo and tikanga Māori. Funded by the New Zealand Government, the station started broadcasting on 28 March 2004 from a base in Newmarket.
Te Reo is the station's second channel, launched 28 March 2008. Te Reo is presented in 100% Māori language with no advertising or subtitles. It features special tribal programming with a particular focus on new programming for the fluent audience.
See also 
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- "Bowls: Young Maori players defy bowls' staid image". The New Zealand Herald. 8 January 2005. Retrieved 19 October 2011.
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- "Te Reo". Māori Television.