In 1642, the Dutch navigator Abel Tasman sighted Aotearoa. He mapped parts of the West Coast but did not land. IN 1769 the British naval Captain James Cook and his crew became the first Europeans to set food on New Zealand soil. Eventually sealers and whalers began to arrive, followed by Christian missionaries, and the first European settlements were established.
In 1840, New Zealand was established as a colony under the British Crown, when the chiefs of most Maori tribes and representatives of the Crown signed the Treaty of Waitangi on 6 February 1840. This agreement is recognized as the founding document of the nation. The British connection remained an important part of New Zealand culture and Britain was often referred to as ‘home’. Just over 100,000 New Zealanders fought on Britain’s behalf in World War I. New Zealand also made a significant contribution during World War II, with nearly 10% of the population serving overseas. After the war, New Zealand’s agricultural products were in demand and the 1950’s saw prosperity, full employment and considerable growth.
The marae is a spiritual place where the dead are mourned, guests are housed, weddings are held, reunions are celebrated, and matters of importance to the community are discussed. Each iwi has a number of marae in its tribal area and in addition there are also urban marae – set up as increasing numbers of Maori people migrate to urban areas. Urban marae typically serve as community centres for people from a number of iwi, and they have modern as well as traditional carvings and decorations. If you visit a marae with a group on a formal occasion, you will receive a ceremonial welcome. The ceremony will differ according to the protocol of the iwi.
New Zealand Maori is the indigenous language of New Zealand and is spoken by about 50,000 Maori people and a small number of Europeans. Interest in promoting Maori language (te reo) has increased dramatically over the last 20 years and is commonly heard on the marae and in rural areas where Maori people predominate. Maori language is also taught in schools and universities.