By Quinn, Nation, and Millett
Published here with authors’ permission
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Before Europeans came to New Zealand, the Maori people were already living there. The Maori first came to New Zealand about 1000 years ago, but the biggest number came after the year 1l00. They came more than two thousand miles in small boats from the islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. The weather in New Zealand was colder than the Pacific islands, but the Maori changed their way of life to fit in with the new conditions.
When the Maori arrived in New Zealand, they found many large birds. One of the birds, the moa, was much taller than a person. It could not fly but it could run very fast and it could kill a person by kicking them. The moa was very useful to the Maori. They were good to eat because there was a lot of meat on one bird. The people used them to make clothes. Moa eggs were big and the Maori used them for carrying water. By the time Europeans came to New Zealand, there were no more of these birds. They were all dead.
New Zealand was a rich country for the Maori. The earth was rich, there were many forests and there were many birds and fish. However, there were almost no animals before people arrived. The Maori brought many plants with them. such as sweet potatoes and other kinds of vegetables and they also brought dogs and rats. Because the weather in New Zealand was cold, the Maori built strong warm houses of wood. Their houses were usually only one large room and they were strong and beautiful. The Maori had a special kind of art. They did not paint pictures, but they cut pictures out of the wood.
When Captain Cook, an English man, visited New Zealand in 1769, there were many Maori. Cook became a friend of some of them and he studied their way of life. After Captain Cook, many other Europeans came to New Zealand. They brought many useful things, like knives, guns and plants but they also brought many bad things like illness. More Europeans kept arriving and they started to fight with the Maori about the land. The Europeans wanted more land but the Maori didn’t want to give up all their land. The Land Wars were fought from the 1840s to the 1870s. The Maori were brave fighters but they did not win because there were too many white people and they had guns. After the wars, a lot of the Maori land was taken by Europeans. This was a very difficult time for the Maori. Many of their leaders were dead, their land was lost and they did not understand the European way of life.
Then, around 1900, new young Maori leaders started coming forward and they tried to help their people. In 1900 there were less than fifty thousand Maori people in New Zealand. Today there are more than six hundred thousand Maori out of a population of four million New Zealanders.
In 1900 the Maori language and culture were dying. Today, Maori language and culture is taught in schools and universities. You can hear and see the language, which is called Te Reo, everywhere and many New Zealanders are realizing that Maori is what makes
New Zealand different and special.