Brief History Of The Māori
The ancestors of the Māori were a Polynesian people originating from south-east Asia. Some historians trace the early Polynesian settlers of New Zealand as migrating from today's China, making the long voyage traveling via Taiwan, through the South Pacific and on to Aotearoa (New Zealand).
The anthropologist Thor Heyerdahl, on the other hand, claims that the Polynesians arrived in the Pacific from America, rather than from the East, as other scholars claim. Heyerdahl bases his theory on the fact that the kumara, staple cultivated food crop of the pre-European New Zealand Māori, originates from central South America.
Around 3500 years ago the Polynesian culture began to expand eastwards from the Bismarck Archipelago. The exact reasons for this expansion are as yet unknown. Some Polynesians remained in the central south Pacific, while others moved on past Tahiti, and almost certainly arriving as far as South America, home of the kumara.
The exact date of Polynesian settlement of the islands of New Zealand is also unknown. Although previously thought to have been between 950 -1130 AD, scholars now debate both the time and circumstances of first Polynesian settlement.
The mythical Polynesian navigator, Kupe, was estimated by ethnologists in the 19th and early 20th centuries as having arrived around 925. By the same scholars, the mythical Māori figure Toi was estimated as having visited New Zealand in 1150.
The Great Fleet, considered to be the first mass arrival of Polynesian settlers, was estimated to have arrived in 1350. Modern scholars are now questioning not only the exactitude of the above dates, but also the Great Fleet theory itself. The debate continues today.
The Great Fleet forms part of the Māori canoe tradition, handed down orally from generation to generation. According to this tradition, the canoes of the Great Fleet arrived from the mythical homeland of Hawaiiki, known as the ancestral homeland, and generally considered as being somewhere in Eastern Polynesia.
The Great Fleet canoes were : the Aotea, Arawa, Tainui, Kurahaupo, Takitimu, Horouata, Tokomaru and Mataatua.
"Archaeological linguistic and cultural evidence today has discredited the Great Fleet theory, and a general consensus among scholars now is that the Polynesians originally moved into the Pacific from the West, spread eastwards, and that the Māori came most recently from the eastern Pacific (that is Tahiti or the Marquesas). They began to arrive in New Zealand about 1000 years ago."
The New Zealand Encyclopedia, 4th Edition. David Bateman
The first Polynesians settled mainly around the coast of New Zealand, and especially the east coast, which was more hospitable and temperate in climate. The settlers introduced animals such as the dog and the small Polynesian rat.
At this time, New Zealand was home to many flightless birds, including the Moa. This bird was, as a consequent, hunted extensively for its meat, large eggs, and feathers. The Moa bones, being strong, were used to fabricate artefacts. The Moa was particularly abundant in the South Island. There were 11 species of the bird, ranging from the size of a turkey up to 3.7 metres tall, and weighing up to 200 kg. Different species included the Upland moa (megalapteryx didinus), the Heavy-footed moa (Euryapteryx geranoides) and the Giant moa (Dinornis giganteus).
Definition of Māori
The name "Māori" originally meant "the local people", or "the original people". Māori was a word which signified "local" or "original" - as opposed to the new arrivals - white European settlers - the "pakeha". With the arrival of European settlers, the word Māori gradually became an adjective for the "Māori people". This change took place before 1815.
Tangata whenua signifies "the local people", "the local people of the land", "the local people of the ancestral land. Tangata signifies "human being", whenua signifies "land" or "ancestral land"
Video - Serious 'All Black' Haka
There were quite a number of different types of haka performed in pre-European times, depending on the occasion. There were hakas of song and joy, and warlike hakas of "utu", performed before going into battle.
There were two types of war haka - one performed without weapons, usually to express public or private feelings, known as the "haka taparahi", and the war haka with weapons, the "peruperu". The "peruperu" was traditionally performed before going into battle. It was to invoke Tumatauenga, the god of war, and warned the enemy of the fate awaiting him. It involved fierce facial expressions and grimaces, poking out of the tongue, eye bulging, grunts and cries, and the waving of war weapons.
Before actually going into battle, the warriors would generally assemble together. The warrior leading the "taua", or war party, would move into the centre of the men and cry :
"Tika tonu mai
Tika tonu mai
Ki ahau e noho nei
Tika tonu mai I a hei ha!"
Which means :
"Come forth this way, towards me
To this place where I now stand "Come forth this way, towards me
To this place where I now stand
Come straight this way
I a hei ha!
Come straight this way
I a hei ha!"
At this call, the warriors would prepare for the "peruperu" haka, during which the tribal elders would make a careful inspection during the dance. If the haka was not performed in total unity, this could be taken as an omen of disaster for the battle to come.
During the actual haka before battle the dancing warriors would eyeball the enemy. Sometimes this would be to stress a particular action during the haka, such as a slicing movement with the arm to indicate the fate awaiting the enemy. The warriors very often went into battle naked, apart from a plaited flax belt around the waist, and which was used for attaching short clubs.
The haka may also be used to tell of great feats, or danced as a special welcome before a high-ranking guest. A haka can also express grievance, or, in earlier times, could be addressing a prayer to one of the ancient Māori Gods.
The haka generally accompanies each cultural performance today.
THE TAUA - WAR PARTY
War parties were usually composed of males, although female tribal members were not exempt from this activity.
The Māori warriors excelled in the art of ambush and surprise raids, appearing and disappearing swiftly and noiselessly into the thick New Zealand natural rainforest environment. They usually attacked at dawn. The aim was to kill all members of the enemy war party, so that no survivors would remain with the risk of "utu" (revenge).
If a lasting peace was considered with a former enemy, an inter-tribal marriage between families of aristocratic or chiefly rank was arranged to ensure the peace pact.
A war party was prepared with care, involving intricate ritual and the abstinence of certain foods and practices. The war party dedicated itself to Tumatauenga, the god of war, and special rites placed a "tapu" around the warrior.
The fighting season was generally between late November and early April, the summer months, when food and fishing was plentiful for warriors on a long war trail.
A war party led by a chief (rangatira), would be made up of around 70 warriors, which was the average compliment of a war canoe (waka taua). It was not uncommon, however, for a war canoe to carry up to 140 warriors. This was a "Te Hokwhitu a Tu".
On arrival back home, a cleansing rite was performed to lift the "tapu".
Video - Polynesian War Dance Competition - New Zealand vs Tonga. Priceless!!
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