Maori Development: Past and Future

We studied the Maori Culture in New Zealand fro the last four weeks in our Sociology class, and I thought it was interesting to report about how the Maori’s lived before the white settlers arrived. I wanted to know what changed in the way of agriculture, fishing and sort of other things. Even though much of the ancient culture traits have disappeared, there are still enough information’s that made it very interesting to research. The Maori’s, from my point of view, never stopped developing themselves by the years.

From the first time they sat foot on New Zealand, until the time the white settler’s came, they changed their way of live many times. I thought that was very interesting and therefore a good reason to find out how much they have adapted themselves to the white settlers. Many of my sources came form different Sociology and Anthropology magazines, which gave me very, detailed information’s about my topics. One of the examples are The Journal of Archeology fro Asian and the Pacific, or Human Ecology: An interdisciplinary Journal. In addition, I gathered various information’s from scholarly books which dealt mostly about culture and identify or the archaeology of the Maori.

“Catches indicated that fishing was quiet narrowly focused thought New Zealand. Fishing was essentially confided to shallow, in shore waters.”1

I was very interested on how Maori fisher were able to go out into the sea with there canoes and fish fro whales or other large fishes. I had seen pictures in Europe of how Maori were perfect whalers, but that is not all true. Atholl Anderson, a staff writer from the Asian Perspectives: The journal of Archeology for Asia and the Pacific in is Article about Uniformity and regional variation in marine fish catches from prehistoric New Zealand made some very interesting research of dug up fish bones at old Maori camps. He compared many similar made researches with very interesting result s about the fishing pattern of the Maori, before the white settlers came.

“Collected Data for southern New Zealand showed that there were some differences in the catch between the eastern and southern coast of the South Islands that might be described as relative difficulty of fishing conditions.”2

The fishing conditions in New Zealand varied by the south or the north, even by tribes. Nevertheless, there was one thing that all New Zealand had in common. That was the low diversity of fish of the coasts. Compared to most of the pacific islands, New Zealand had a very low diversity of off shore fishes.

“New Zealand must acknowledge the low diversity of temperate-zone itchyofauna at the species level compared to those of the tropics. The Philippines have at least 2500 shore fish species, and although diversity declines eastward, there are still more than 900 species in Samoa and over 400 species in Hawaii. New Zealand has only about 150 shore fish species.”3

Even though the Maori lived of such a few species of fish, it was the main source of food. The little diversity was not only the problem the Maori’s were facing. Weather and sea conditions generally, but especially in southern New Zealand and the Cook Islands were often dangerous for small crafts, this therefore discouraged the fishing expeditions far from land or staying out overnight.

This is evidence why the Maori could have never been originally being whale fishers. If their little canoes were not even made to hold a good storm, how were they able to hold a furious, harpooned whale? Micheal King made and wrote a picture book of the Maori. This was our main textbook for the last part of our term. In there he showed various pictures of Maori and white fishers working on huge whales that were dragged into a bay. As a site comment he commented that:

“From the time that shore stations were being established in the last 1820’s, Maori became actively involved in the [whaling] industry “4

For the Maori’s the fishing at its sea was the number one food producer for them. Fish was the main essential for their daily living. Therefore the sea became something very holy. A governmental website of New Zealand reported about Traditional Maori Fisheries. It was very interesting to see that the Maori had a much respected god called Tangaroa (the guardian of the sea). That was what the rules were for the Maori’s to protect their sea and the fishes:

“Incantations must be offered to Tangaroa before fishing. If someone drowns, no one may fish there until Tangaroa returns the death. The first fish taken is retuned to the sea with a karaki (prayer) to invite gods to bring and abundance of fish to the hook. No eating or smoking is allowed in the boat during a fish expedition …”5

The Book From the Beginning by John Wilson, which is a book bout the Archeology of the Maori, I learned that Seals were a very bug in Maori lives. Even tough some researcher reported of Maori’s eating stranded Pilot whales or once in a while harpooning dolphins, still Seal were the biggest sea food for the Maori’s. John Wilson reported in his book that:

“Seals , especially fur seals, although sea lions, elephant seal and even occasionally leopard seal fell prey to stealthy Maori hunters combing the shore with their sealing clubs.”6 He also adds that “Seals provided thirty to fifty per cent of the estimated food.”7

The Maori’s could have never made so far if they would have just lived on Fish. The Maori’s horticulture or agriculture was important from the first Maori’s that settled New Zealand. Nevertheless, it was not as exploded. It got a very big hit toward advancement when the settlers arrived. With the intermarriage of sailors with Maori women, they also introduced European crops like corn and many others. In the same book from Michel King, which I earlier mentioned, he also describes Maori’s way of horticulture and agriculture.

“Because whaling was seasonal, most stations organized subsistence agriculture activities to support whalers at other times of the year. Inevitably they began to marry women and Maoris of both sexes worked in the settlements that grew up around stations.”8

The time past and the Maoris had to adapt themselves to the drastic change. They realized that they were expelled of their country and so they had to change their traditional way of live. They became sharecroppers.

“Most of their good land got bought or taken from them, denied access to the government assistance given Pakeha farmers for land development, Maoris in most parts of the country could barely produce sufficient meat, grain, vegetables and fruits to feed themselves.”9