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Dear Dr. X
Russell Crowe's heritage is Maori and Norwegian. He is 1/16th Maori; he gets it from one of his great grandmothers. He even has an option to vote in their poll. The Maori inhabited New Zealand before the British took control. The following is a brief outline of their history and culture. It is by no means a complete picture of these beautiful and rich people (see the Links Page for more Maori links).
Maori History & Culture
Two great Maori art and carving galleries: Aotearoa, New Zealand: Land of the Long White Cloud and John Royal Gallery.
Maori canoed to Aotearoa (New Zealand) around the 10th century AD from a land called Hawaiiki (probably near Hawaii). They settled around the coast at first, and spread inland. They introduced the dog and the small Polynesian rat to the island, grew sweet potatoes, fished, and hunted the now extinct Moa (flightless bird).
Around 1500 AD, tribal infighting got intense, and they developed a fortress called a pa. Their pas proved quite difficult to overtake, even for British troops. The British tried to erase Maori culture in 1905 by making it illegal to teach their language in public schools. Maori counter-efforts in the 1970s up to the present have sinced trounced it. Maori also fought in WWII (first picture is Lt. Moana-mi-A-Kiwa Ngarimu, the only full Maori to earn the Victoria Cross for inspired leadership in the battle of Tebaga Gap in Tunis, Egypt).
Singing and dancing are integral parts of their culture. Waiata, or songs, pass on history, legends, and recant events in an individual's life. It is not uncommon for a Maori speaker to break into a song in the middle of his speech. Hakas are dances of any type. One, called the peruperu, was performed before going to war. Fierce grimacing, poking out their tongues, eye bulging, grunts, cries, weapons waving, they announced to their enemies their intent.
War wasn't solely a male activity. Women were allowed to engage as well. They excelled at ambush and surprise, and a winning taua party would kill all the warriors in the losing war party.
Tapu means "sacred" in Maori. If something, someone, or someplace was tapu, no human could touch it. Sometimes you weren't allowed to even approach it. Violations would mean incurring the gods' wrath, and even death.
The traditional greeting is a powhiri. Gently they press their foreheads and noses together. Then they mingle their breaths three times, once as a greeting, the second for their ancestors, and the third honoring each other's life.
By far the most noticeable tradition of the Maori is the moko, a full-face tattoo. A tradition older than the Maori peoples themselves, tobungata-moko (male specialists) would literally carve an intricate design of curves and lines into their subjects face. A painful procedure done in total silence, with no food, and no other activity until it's completed. It was a right of passage, and an individual representation of their character and history. No two mokos are alike. Each is so unique illiterate chiefs would sign documents with exact renderings of their moko. In the 1820s, European sailors traded preserved tattooed Maori heads in exchange for muskets and gunpowder.
Religion & Myths
Maori believe in deities, including Tane-mahuta (lord of the forest) and Tangaroa (Polynesian ocean god). They also believed in a supreme being, called Io, that controlled everything, even if it didn't make its presence known.
To the Maori, all living things descend from the gods, and are usually embodied in rivers, lakes, and mountains. Places tapu to the Maori include Wanganui River, Mount Ngaruahoe, Mount Ruapehu, and Cape Reinga. About 1/3 of all Maori church patrons belong to the Catholic and Ratana faiths, and the Church of England.
Treaty of Waitangi (signed 1840) in Maori: Ko Wikitoria te Kuini o Ingarani i tana mahara atawai ki nga Rangatira me nga Hapu o Nu Titani i tana hiahia hki kia tohungia ki a ratou o tarou rangatiratanga me to ratou wenua, a kia mau tonu hoki te Rongo ki a ratou me te Atanoho hoki kua wakaaro ia he mea tika kia tukua mai tetahi Rangatira - hei kai wakarite ki nga Tangata maori o Nu Tirani - kia wakaaetia e nga Rangatira maori te Kawanatanga o te Kuini ki nga wahikatoa o te Wenua nei me nga Motu - na te mea hoki he tokomaha ke nga tangata o tona Iwi Kua noho ki tenei wenua, a e haere mai nei. Na ko te Kuini e hiahia ana kia wakarita te Kawanatanga kia kaua ai nga kino e puta mai ki te tangata Maori ki te Pakeha e noho ture kore ana. -- Na, kua pao te Kuini kia tukua a hau a Wiremu Hopihona he Kapitana i te Roiara Nawi hei Kawana mo nga wahi katoa o Nu Tirani e tukua aianei, amua atu ki te Kuini, e mea atu ana ia ki nga Rangatira o te wakaminenga o nga hapu o Nu Tirani me era Rangatira atu enei ture ka korerotia nei.
English Translation: Her Majesty Victoria Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland regarding with Her Royal Favour the Native Chiefs and Tribes of New Zealand and anxious to protect their just Rights and Property and to secure to them the enjoyment of Peace and Good Order has deemed it necessary in consequence of the great number of Her Majesty's Subjects who have already settled in New Zealand and the rapid extension of Emigration both from Europe and Australia which is still in progress to constitute and appoint a functionary properly authorized to treat with the Aborigines of New Zealand for the recognition of Her Majesty's Sovereign authority over the whole or any part of those islands -- Her Majesty therefore being desirous to establish a settled form of Civil Government with a view to avert the evil consequences which must result from the absence of the necessary Laws and Institutions alike to the native population and to Her subjects has been graciously pleased to empower and to authorize me William Hobson a Captain in Her Majesty's Royal Navy Consul and Lieutenant Governor of such parts of New Zealand as may be or hereafter shall be ceded to Her Majesty to invite the confederated and independent Chiefs of New Zealand to concur in the following Articles and Conditions.
Listen to a radio station sung in Maori: Ruia Mai
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