Māori Culture in New Zealand

Māori | mau·ree

When visiting New Zealand, or ‘Aotearoa’ in Māori, it’s essential to be aware of and appreciate and respect the Māori culture. The Māori culture is an enormous part of New Zealand’s identity, and it is a priority amongst the government, tourism boards, and the people of New Zealand to respect, preserve, and continually promote it. You’ll likely see Māori culture as soon as you land here, with the words ‘Kia Ora’ welcoming you to the country. But there are other elements to be aware of and appreciate while staying here. Māori language is an everyday language here, and certainly provides a lot of structure regarding how the country cares for its people and the land. This blog will explain more about the importance of Māori culture in New Zealand.

New Zealand embraces the Manaakitanga of its People

‘Manaakitanga’ means welcoming guests and providing excellent hospitality, which the people of New Zealand pride themselves on. All elements of New Zealand’s culture need to keep the connections between the past, present, and future connected. The country celebrates this daily by telling stories, having guided experiences, and authentic learning in every town and city. 

Māori is one of Three Official Languages in New Zealand

Te Reori Māori is one of the three official languages spoken in New Zealand. You’ll likely be familiar with kia ora, which means hello, as it features on many tourist sites. While English is the primary language, around 4 percent of people speak Māori, making it the second most common language in Aotearoa.

Significantly, the Māori language is considered to be a national treasure, or taonga. The language has undergone a significant revival in recent years, thanks to the government and local efforts. While in New Zealand, try your best to pronounce the words correctly by listening to how the locals use them - everyday words and simple phrases can significantly help promote the Māori language. 

New Zealand Promotes Tiaki for its Country and People

The Tiaki Promise is a commitment of care. The country of New Zealand is precious and important, and both the people of the country and those that travel there have a responsibility to look after it. The Tiaki Promise is a commitment to care not just for the present day, but for future generations too. Each person is a guardian of the land, and it’s up to residents and tourists alike to keep this promise of care while they are here. While exploring Aotearoa, follow these guidelines as published on the official tourism site of the country: 

“Care for land, sea and nature, treading lightly and leaving no trace. Travel safely, showing care and consideration for all. And respect the culture and local communities, travelling with an open heart and mind. Be guardians, be protectors. Tiaki, care for New Zealand.”

The Importance of the Haka in New Zealand

The haka is a traditional Māori dance, famous worldwide for its presence in sporting and traditional New Zealand events. Traditionally, the haka is a ceremonial Māori war dance: customarily performed in a group, they symbolise a tribe’s strength, unity, and pride. The words said during the dance describe the ancestors and events of a tribe. Traditionally, the haka was performed at the meeting of two tribes as part of a welcome custom - sometimes this would be before battle, but it could also be a peacetime dance too. Today, it’s used in sporting events, ceremonies, and other events like birthdays, weddings, and funerals. You might have witnessed the haka by the All Blacks, the New Zealand rugby team, before an international match. 

The Treaty of Waitangi is Modern-Day New Zealand’s Founding Document

The Treaty of Waitangi was the founding document of modern-day New Zealand. It was signed by several Māori chiefs and the British Crown. Signed on February 6th, 1850, the Treaty of Waitangi, or Te Tiriti o Waitangi, is widely considered to be the constitutional document that has established and to this day, guides a relationship between the Crown and Māori. There are still several disagreements about this treaty, but for the most part, it is considered to be the founding document. You can see the Treaty for yourself at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds in the Northland of New Zealand. A popular space for visitors, you can also visit the museum, watch a cultural performance, and see a waka taua (Māori war canoe).

There is no doubt that Māori culture is essential to New Zealand. Not only is the language one of the three main spoken languages in New Zealand, but, especially in recent years, the promotion and celebration of Māori culture have undergone significant revival and celebration. When visiting Aotearoa, make sure to respect the Māori culture here, but also, if you’re interested, spend some time visiting Māori sites, learning about the people, and seeing what an impact Māori culture has had on modern-day New Zealand. 

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