Reference Work Entry

Encyclopedia of Medical Anthropology

pp 815-822


  • Mason Durie

Alternative Names

New Zealand Maori, Tangata Whenua o Aotearoa.

Location and Linguistic Affiliation

Maori are the indigenous people of New Zealand. Of Polynesian descent, the first voyagers arrived in New Zealand around 1000ad in a series of planned migrations from Eastern Polynesia (probably Tahiti), by way of Rarotonga. Although there are minor tribal dialectal differences, there is a single Maori language that has similarities with other Polynesian languages especially Hawaiian, Tahitian, and Rarotongan.

Overview of the Culture

Maori society was essentially tribal. There were forty or fifty major tribes (iwi) and many more smaller tribal groups (hapu) who occupied specific territories and had distinctive customs and dialects, though subscribing to a single common language. While tribes were largely autonomous, complicated social networks were formed to gain political and strategic advantages and so leading to a dy ...

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