Maori are the tangata whenua, the indigenous people, of New Zealand. They came here over 1000 years ago from their mythical Polynesian homeland of Hawaiki. Today Maori make up 14% of the population and their culture and language sit at the heart of New Zealand life and society.
You’ll notice that most of the place names are Maori and you’re bound to hear te reo – the Maori language. There would be few New Zealanders who do not recognize – and use – common Maori terms and phrases. You’ll probably pick a few up yourself. Start with ‘kia ora’ – hello, and you won’t go wrong. And you’re bound to have seen the haka probably performed by the All Blacks before a match. Like most things in Maori culture there is a mana and significance to the haka that is much deeper than outside appearances.
If you’d like to experience Maori culture you could do worse than go to the areas where Maori culture and lifestyle is strongest. In Rotorua, there are organized tours that will give you a traditional welcome onto a marae where you will then be introduced to traditional Maori song, dance and haka and be given a feed of kai moana from the men who’ve gone out fishing.