Maori (mäˈōrē) [key], people of New Zealand and the Cook Islands, believed to have migrated in early times from other islands of Polynesia. Maori tradition asserts that seven canoes brought their ancestors to New Zealand. The Maori language is closely related to Tahitian, Hawaiian, and other languages spoken on the islands lying E of Samoa in the South Pacific. In the early 19th cent., at the end of their war against European encroachment, the Maori in New Zealand numbered about 100,000. The number later dwindled to 40,000. Largely through the efforts of their own chiefs, however, they have reemerged as an economically self-sufficient minority in New Zealand, and their population today is more than 500,000. The Maori maintain their own cultural identity apart from the general New Zealand community, while at the same time sending representatives to parliament. Since the 1970s the Maoris and the government have negotiated several settlements of land and other claims lodged by various Maori groups; the claims date back to the 19th cent., when land was seized by British colonists in violation of the Treaty of Waitangi. See also New Zealand.
See A. J. Metge, Maoris of New Zealand (1967); W. Forman and D. Lewis, The Maori (1984); J. Irwin, An Introduction to Maori Religion (1984).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.