Early Maori

This page will have information and activities to help you learn about what New Zealand was like before European explorers arrived.

How people lived together

  • Maori people lived together on the land
  • They were organised into ‘iwi’ or tribes, who were linked to a waka or canoe that came to New Zealand
  • The iwi were divided into ‘hapu’
  • People owned the land together
  • People lived in kainga or homes
  • Keeping ‘the fire burning’ was very important
  • There were pa, or fortifications

Learn about the different Pa before and after Europeans arrived

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Learn about Maori Place Names

Aotearoa Travel Diary-Te Wai Pounamu

Maori Food and Trade 

  • People traded with other tribes
  • People hunted, fished and gardened

Visit the Te Ara Website to learn about Pre European Society in New Zealand:

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Check out Google Search for Images: 

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Maori History and Religion

  • History was told in stories and in carving or whakairo
  • There were rules, kawa, and customs and society was organised around ‘tikanga’ meaning correct behaviour
  • Names of places were linked to ancestors and stories about the people there
  • Māori ātua or gods are still important to people today
  • Karakia, or prayers, are rituals that people use before or after an event or action

Learn He Aha Te Hau, a chant that predicts that new people will arrive


He aha te hau

E wawara mai

He tiu, he raki

Nana ia mai te pupu tarakihi ki uta

E tikina atu e au

te kotui te powhakairo ka tu

ki Waitemata

i oku wairangi e..

Myths and Legends

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The Fish of Maui

The Story of Creation



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