Maori Culture

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Arrival in Aotearoa
The Maori people first arrived in New Zealand Aotearoa) over 1000 years ago from their ancestral homeland of Hawaiki. They came in great ocean-going double hulled sailing canoes (waka hourua) and they named the land Aotearoa (Land of the Long White Cloud). More waka hourua continued to arrive over the next several hundred years, landing in various parts of New Zealand. Many iwi (tribes) can trace their origins and whakapapa (genealogy) back to these ancestoral canoes. Today, Maori make up over 14 percent of the population and the language and culture impacts on all aspects of New Zealand life.

Maori Tribal (Iwi) Area Map 

Rich and Varied
Culture Maori culture is rich and varied, and embraces both traditional and modern arts. Traditional arts like carving, weaving, moko (tattooing) and kapa haka (group performance) are widely practised throughout the country. Artists combine the traditional techniques of their tipuna (ancestors), with their own exciting new techniques and forms. Today Maori culture extends to every area of the arts, including theatre, television, film, poetry and music.


The traditional Maori New Year find our more...

Te Reo Maori — The Maori Language
Visitors to New Zealand become immediately aware of the Maori language as most place names are of Maori origin. At first, you may be puzzled by the seemingly impossible-to-pronounce names but in fact Maori has a logical structure, and consistent rules of pronunciation.

Maori Words & Phrases Glossary

Kia ora — Hello
Kia ora tatou
  — Hello everyone
Tena koe
— Greetings to you (said to one person)
Tena koutou 
— Greeting to you all
Haere mai 
— Welcome
Kei te pai 
— Good
Tino pai
  — Really good
Haere ra  —
Ka kite ano
— Until I see you again (Bye)
Hei konei ra
— See you later

Aotearoa - New Zealand
ariki - paramount chief
aroha - regard, love, compassion
atua - god or spirit

haka - war dance
hangi - earth oven, food cooked within
hapu - sub-tribe
hui - gathering  
inanga - whitebait
iwi - tribe

kai - food
kai moana - seafood
kainga - home town
karakia - prayer
kaumatua - elder, family head
kaupapa - topics of discussion
kauri - forest tree
kawa - marae etiquette
kiekie - climbing plant
koru - fern frond
kotahitanga - unity
kumara - sweet potato

makutu - sorcery
mana - spiritual power, authority, prestige
manaia - bone carving
marae - Maori meeting grounds
moa - large flightless bird, now extinct
moko - tattoo
oriori - lullaby

pa - fort
pakeha - person of non-Maori descent (European)
poi - dance with poi (light balls on strings)

rangatira - chief
runanga - political grouping  
tangi - funeral, cry of lament
taniwha - water-dwelling spirit or monster
taonga - treasure
tapu - sacred
tiki - stylized human image made from wood or stone
toetoe - various species of long grass with tall, feathery flowerheads
tohunga - expert, often in religious matters
tuahu - shrine, sacred place
tupuna (tipuna) - ancestors

urupa - burial ground

waiata - song
waka - boat, canoe, group of tribes descended from occupants of a migratory canoe
whakapapa - genealogy
whanau - extended family
whare - house
wharekai - kitchen
wharenui (wharepuni) - meeting house

To learn more about Maori Language / Te Reo Maori
Korero Maori


Learn about the Haka  |  Matariki - The Maori New Year 

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