Maori culture

Many people who travel to New Zealand and the Cook Islands are interested in experiencing and learning about Maori culture, the customs and traditions of their indigenous people.


Compared to other native peoples around the world, the Maori have had a fairly short presence in their traditional homeland. Settlers from Eastern Polynesia landed in New Zealand in the late 13th century, which thereby became the last major landmass on Earth to be settled. In 1840 many Maori leaders signed the Treaty of Waitangi which formed the basis of the British claim to sovereignty over the island and has been the source of Maori land claims in the latter 20th century. The Maori language has had some influence on New Zealand English and is still spoken by some Maori and taught to children. Many place names in New Zealand continue to be in Maori, and even those who do not speak Maori usually know how to pronounce Maori words.


  • 1 Rotorua. The unofficial Maori capital of New Zealand, with numerous Maori cultural shows, and many opportunities to sample food cooked using the hangi, the traditional Maori form of cooking. Rotorua (Q208948) on Wikidata Rotorua on Wikipedia
  • 2 Wairoa. A Maori settlement that became a garrison town during the New Zealand Wars, the town now hosts the annual Wairoa Māori Film Festival around the end of May or early June. Wairoa (Q599594) on Wikidata Wairoa on Wikipedia
  • 3 Waitangi (Bay of Islands). A small town of national significance. The place where on 6 February 1840 a treaty was signed between representatives of the British Crown and over 500 Maori chiefs over land rights, now regarded as the founding document of New Zealand. Waitangi (Q499111) on Wikidata Waitangi, Northland on Wikipedia


  • Watch a Haka performance – The Haka ceremonial dance is the most recognisable part of Maori culture worldwide, having been adopted by New Zealand's national rugby team the All Blacks and is performed before the start of every international match. There are many types of haka. Not all of them are war dances and some can be performed by both men and women. There are even hakas for welcoming guests into the country.
  • Waka Rides. Waka are traditional double-hulled Maori canoes up to 40 m (130 ft) long that were used for fishing, travelling across bodies of water and in times of war. Sometimes temporary sails were attached to these boats. National parks, harbours and cultural villages across New Zealand offer the opportunity to go on waka cruises along the rivers and ocean. You can also learn how to paddle the waka.


  • The hangi is the traditional Maori way of cooking their food, in which meals are cooked in a hot pit in the ground. The pit is either heated with hot stones from a fire, or in some places geothermal heat makes areas of ground naturally hot. The hangi is often used to cook a traditional roast style dinner. Several places in Rotorua offer geothermal hangi, while other hangi can be sampled in Christchurch, Wellington and elsewhere.


  • Treat Maori heritage with respect. Many museums prohibit taking photos of Maori artefacts.
  • The Maori had historically been subject to state-sanctioned discrimination. While today they have equal rights on paper with all other New Zealanders, they continue to be economically disadvantaged. While current New Zealand government policy towards indigenous issues are among the most progressive in the world, progress has still been slow in addressing longstanding Maori grievances. As a visitor, you are advised to avoid political discussions if possible, and do more listening than talking should they come up.

See also[edit]

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