Māori culture is an integral part of life in New Zealand, influencing everything from cuisine to customs, and language.
Māori are the tangata whenua, the indigenous people, of New Zealand. They came here more than 1000 years ago from their mythical Polynesian homeland of Hawaiki. Today, one in seven New Zealanders identify as Māori. Their history, language and traditions are central to New Zealand’s identity.
Experience Māori culture by visiting a marae, watching a carving or weaving demonstration or learning about fascinating myths and legends from passionate Māori guides.
In 1840, New Zealand's founding constitutional document, the Treaty of Waitangi, was signed by both Māori Chiefs and representatives of the British crown.
After the treaty was signed, the British population quickly grew larger than the Māori population. For more than a century after the signing of the Treaty, Pākehā culture was dominant in New Zealand. Māori were expected to adapt to Pākehā culture.
It wasn't until the 1980s that Māori culture started to undergo a renaissance. Since then, there has been a renewed focus on biculturalism, which is based on the partnership established between Māori and the Crown by the Treaty of Waitangi.
Māori culture plays a role in everyday life in New Zealand.
As an official language, it's common to hear Te Reo Māori spoken, and many official place names are in Māori. You can easily learn the correct pronunciation of place names, plus some simple Māori words and phrases, such as kia ora and other greetings.
Tikanga, or Māori customs, are also important in daily life. Manaakitanga is all about welcoming guests and providing great hospitality, something which all Kiwis pride themselves on.
Kaitiakitanga embodies the sense of respect and guardianship Māori feel toward the natural world. This philosophy is central to the love and care many New Zealanders have for the environment. We ask all visitors to New Zealand to make the Tiaki Promise, which captures this respect for our precious natural resources.
The best place to observe Māori culture is on a marae, which is a sacred communal meeting space.
In regions such as Northland, Auckland or Rotorua, you can visit a marae to experience a traditional Māori welcome. During a marae visit, you'll also hear Māori speeches and singing, see carved meeting houses, greet the locals with a hongi (pressing of the noses) and enjoy a hāngī feast cooked in earth ovens.
Performing arts or kapa haka, which incorporate harmonious singing, rhythmic dancing, and Māori dances such as the haka, are a must-see for any visitor. Many marae visits and Māori cultural tours include a kapa haka performance, with the most renowned place for these shows being Rotorua in the North Island.