When we first arrived in New Zealand (which got its name from the Dutch people who called it Nieuw Zeeland), I had no idea what Maori culture was. Now I feel like I know almost everything because we went to cultural performances, museums and just by being in New Zealand I have learned things.
The Maori people were the first people in New Zealand. They were great sailors and that is how they arrived here, by following the ocean currents and all the stars. All people that came to this country had to pass some type of water, including early traders like the Dutch and British. Everyone needed something from each other. For example the British needed flax from the Maori to fix their boats. The Maori traded these items for supplies like scissors and thread. The Maori signed The Treaty of Waitangi with the British and became part of the Commonwealth in 1840.
Their clothing today is a lot like what we wear but in the past, their clothing was different. Most of the clothing was made out of flax which is a plant. The men’s clothing would always be a skirt made with flax. They wore it with bare feet. The women wore short dresses, flax skirts and some would also wear feathered cloaks. Women also wear bare feet. The designs on the clothes are usually red, white and black swirly lines.
The common traditional foods are corn, pumpkin, chicken, pork and bacon bones. They no longer follow traditional ways of life but they did hunt with spears and grew their vegetables. For special occasions they cook their food under the ground and the heat under the ground warmed it up. This is called geothermal heat. There are 2 ways they did this. First, the Maori can dig a hole and put a pot full of food in it or second, they dug a hole and placed a box filled with food in the hole and cover it with towels or leaves.
Maori traditional homes were made of flax. They also have ceremonial buildings that were made of carved wood and shells. These are used for birthdays, funerals and performances. The carvings on the outside were of special people in the tribe’s past. Paua shells were used for the eyes of the carvings. It shows respect if you take off your shoes before you go into the ceremonial buildings.
I learned about 3 types of toys that children played with. These toys helped with strengthening wrists and helping with eye and hand coordination so they could fight in war and hunt better. One of my favourites was a poi. A poi is simply a plastic ball on the end of a string. They were originally rocks instead of plastic. They swung them around in circles to strengthen their wrists, but now they are used for entertainment. The last 2 toys are 2 different sizes of sticks. One helps with eye and hand coordination as people throw them to each other. They are not allowed to drop the sticks. The other sticks are longer and they twirl them around their body. This also helps make their wrists strong.
I noticed that the women cup their hands and shake them when they dance and I wanted to find out why. I asked a lady and she said they show life and it’s called the Wiri. She described them as the waves rumbling and the tree leaves rustling. Traditionally, Maori men performed the Haka before they were about to battle but now its used on the rugby field. They yell, slap themselves and show big eyes to scare off their enemies.
I really enjoyed learning about the Maori and see the similarities to our Indigenous people in Canada.
We're the Danchuks - follow our explorations and family adventures in a wide world (2018).