The Maoris in New Zealand
In New Zealand, things change slowly. Life is quiet, unhurried and prosperous. The British explorer, Captain James Cook was the first European to visit New Zealand. He got here in 1796. Many traders followed him. At the first time, they were trading in wood, whale oil and other local products. They were classified as a tough crowd. Some were escaped criminals and others were people who wanted to leave industrial Europe.
In 1840, New Zealand was a British colony. Many immigrants arrived from Europe, and the Maori natives were more numerous than other population. For the first Europeans, it was a hard life. Working very hard is main obligation. They had to clear the forests to make farmland then they brought sheep and cows from Australia. The farms slowly began to prosper.
Besides it, New Zealand is well-known for its sheep and there are more than 60 million of them. They outnumber the 3 million people by twenty to one. New Zealand meat and dairy products go all over the world. The country has other advantages such as high mountains with fast rivers. These can be used for hydro-electric schemes. There is also a big volcanic area on North Island. The volcanoes create super-hot steam which is used to make electricity. This is called geothermal power, and New Zealanders are the world experts. Many New Zealanders work on geothermal schemes in Asia.
New Zealanders think of their country as being mainly agricultural. But, today, six out of ten people live in big cities. New Zealand cities have a special character. They have a business centre, and then a great “urban city”. For many kilometers around the city centre there are great suburbs. Each house is separate, brightly painted, usually made of wood, and each has a garden. There aren’t slums but there are few very big houses. However, most New Zealand families have one or two cars, television, dishwashing machine, and often a boat.
They are fond of boats. In fact, New Zealanders love the outdoor life. They don’t like offices. They are suspicious of book-learning, academic life, and of the arts. The real life is out of doors. They are very interested in sports and rugby is the national sport, and every town has a team. The national team is called the “All Blacks”. The “All Blacks” is perhaps the best rugby team in the world. Sometimes, rugby seems more important than politics. Politics is very quiet. Two big parties, Labor and National both try to keep New Zealand egalitarian.
The European immigrants came from countries where class was important. But in New Zealand they became very egalitarian, that is, regarding all people as equal. In some ways, New Zealand is a progressive country. It was one of the first countries to give votes to women. It also has a fine social welfare system, free education, and careful nature conservation laws. Today’s immigrants still come from Western Europe. There are very strict immigration laws. They want to keep New Zealand the same. You can still feel regional differences, the result of the different immigrant groups. Around Otago, the people and society are still very Scottish. The city of Christchurch is different. It looks English; it has English building, English parks and old English families. There are another people in New Zealand, the Maoris. Who are they? Actually where were they from? How do they dwell now?
The Maoris are often called the “original New Zealanders”. The Maoris were immigrants from Polynesia. They came to New Zealand in the 14th Century, and took power from earlier people. The Maoris were not only agricultural people but great fighters as well. They have many different weapons and were always fighting. Each group fought hard to get more land. When the British came, they traded with the Maoris. The Maoris wished guns. With British guns, the fighting among Maori groups became worse. Many more men were killed, and the population went down. Because they wanted to trade, the Maoris welcomed the immigrants. Sometimes a white man came to a Maori tribe. To make him stay, the Maoris gave him a wife and land then he worked as an interpreter in trading deals. But the trouble was begun the Maoris’ land was taken by white men. In the 1860’s there were bad wars, Land Wars between the Maoris and the British. Anti-White groups formed. Each was led by a prophet. These groups gave the British much trouble.
In 1814 there were 100,000 Maoris and by 1900 there were only 40,000. People said the Maoris were finished but the Maoris have come back. They have stopped fighting each other, and began to grow stronger. Today there are more 236,000 Maoris but now they don’t have enough land to be farmers, so most of them live in the cities. They still have different way of life.
Marae is the Tribal Meeting House
The Maoris form many groups and clubs. There are Maori sport clubs, art clubs, welfare groups and churches. Maori workers in factories always form such groups. In this way they keep their identity. In many cities, the Maori build traditional marae. The marae is the tribal meeting house. It is the centre of Maori life. Here they get married, discuss politics and welfare, say farewell before travelling, and mourn the dead.
The Maoris now fight for their rights. There is a powerful group called Nga Tamatoa (the young warriors). This group fights against the political and social power of the Pakeha (white men). New Zealand is changing slowly. It becomes less and less British. A few years ago, the British National anthem was always played in cinemas. New Zealand must adjust to two things: the new economic power of Asia, and the new political feeling of the Maoris.