Maori tradition plays an integral role in the way of life

Learning about the Maori people and how their culture and language have shaped New Zealand can help you connect with the country and its people.

In New Zealand, Maori tradition plays an integral role in the way of life. Maori shapes how we cook, speak, think, what we teach our kids in school, and even who runs the nation.

To the Maori

Native Maori were already living in New Zealand thousands of years ago. Their forefathers arrived in New Zealand about 1200, making Maori the earliest permanent residents.

As of New Zealand’s most recent census in 2018, approximately 80% of the population was Maori. In percentage terms, it equates to around 16.5 percent of the world’s population.


The Waitangi Treaty

Our first governing document was the Declaration of Waitangi.  After New Zaland was originally established as a colony by the British in 1840, this document was signed by Mori chiefs (rangatira) and representatives of the British crown.

The ratification of Te Tiriti marked the beginning of the blending of Mori and European beliefs and rituals that are so characteristic of New Zealand, and it continues to play a central role in defining the connection between Mori and people of European ancestry in the country.

Tikanga, the Mori way of life

Integral to Maori society is the practice of Tikanga (etiquette and traditions). When you learn about Mori Tikanga, you learn about the Mori way of life. A trip to a marae (a gathering place for Maori) also necessitates your familiarity with this information.

The tenets of manaakitanga and kaitiakitanga are central to Tikanga.


Manaakitanga is the practice of generous hospitality. Guests are welcomed and cared for via acts of generosity, kindness, and mutual regard, all of which are summed up in this phrase.

Many people in New Zealand place a high value on the idea. Our government even acknowledges it as a primary value in our tourist plan.



The Maori have a profound feeling of kaitiakitanga, or guardianship, over the natural world. Mana, tapu, and mauri are all very related ideas. You may learn more about them on the Te Ara website.

Another Mori idea, called kaitiakitanga, is foundational to the way many Kiwis see their role in protecting the environment.

The Maori language, or Te Reo Mori.

The Maori and English names for New Zealand, “Aotearoa New Zealand,” are both common.

Pakeha is the Mori name for those of European ancestry.

The ‘Kia ora’ is one of the most often-heard Maori expressions.

The Maori language, known as Te Reo Mori, is a crucial aspect of Maori culture.

Te Reo, along with English and New Zealand Sign Language, is one of the country’s official languages. Numerous government portals have content in both Mori and English. The Mori and English versions of New Zealand’s national song are equally common.

The usage of the Maori language (Te Reo) has increased in recent years. Maori and non-Maori alike will welcome one another using the Mori language.

Names of Places The Mori name for several hitherto English-only places has been adopted officially. In New Zealand, you may hear both the Maori and the English names for the exact location.


Master the Maori language.

Te Reo Mori is rapidly becoming a mainstream language in New Zealand. Although Kiwis are becoming more conscious of adopting accurate Mori pronunciation, some individuals still have a uniquely ‘Pakeha’ manner of speaking some Mori terms, and you may hear both.

Listening to native speakers is the greatest method to pick up some basic Te Reo and perfect your pronunciation. You may listen to several greetings and other phrases spoken in Mori on Radio New Zealand (RNZ).

Look up the meaning of unfamiliar Mori terms in an online Mori-English/English-Mori dictionary.

Culture and cuisine of the Maori people Everyday Mori life With shellfish in a kete

Meals and dishes from the Maori culture

Put Maori cuisine to the test for yourself.

Study the content.

Depending on where you live and what you do for a living, your exposure to the Maori culture in your everyday life may vary.

The North Island is home to more Maori than the South Island. It’s more likely that you’ll be exposed to and participate in Mori culture on a daily basis if you make your home in the North Island, and especially if you settle in places like Auckland, the Waikato, the Bay of Plenty, Northland, and Gisborne.

Working in the public sector (i.e. the Government) sometimes requires participation in formal ceremonies using Mori traditions (Tikanga). Having familiarity with Maori culture may also be required of you.

Attending a Marae Ceremony

In every corner of New Zealand, the marae (a Mori gathering place) serves as the nerve center of the local Mori community. Visiting a marae is a wonderful opportunity to immerse oneself in Maori culture and learn more about it firsthand. It’s recommended that you go there as a group.

Watch the NZ On Screen video below to learn more about marae traditions. Filmed in 1984, the information it contains is just as relevant now as it was then since the rituals shown have deep historical roots.

You may use the Mori Maps website to locate nearby marae.

Explore the Mori literature The Maori people of New Zealand have a rich history, and Te Ara (The Encyclopedia of New Zealand) provides a comprehensive summary of their history, from the time of the first European settlers to the current day. Biculturalism is also addressed, as is the evolution of the dynamic between Maori and Pakeha.


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