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Maori (mäˈōrē), people of New Zealand and the Cook Islands, believed to have migrated in early times from other islands of Polynesia. Maori tradition asserts that seven canoes brought their ancestors to New Zealand. The Maori language is closely related to Tahitian, Hawaiian, and other languages spoken on the islands lying E of Samoa in the South Pacific. In the early 19th cent., at the end of their war against European encroachment, the Maori in New Zealand numbered about 100,000. The number later dwindled to 40,000. Largely through the efforts of their own chiefs, however, they have reemerged as an economically self-sufficient minority in New Zealand, and their population today is more than 500,000. The Maori maintain their own cultural identity apart from the general New Zealand community, while at the same time sending representatives to parliament. Since the 1970s the Maoris and the government have negotiated several settlements of land and other claims lodged by various Maori groups; the claims date back to the 19th cent., when land was seized by British colonists in violation of the Treaty of Waitangi. See also New Zealand.


See A. J. Metge, Maoris of New Zealand (1967); W. Forman and D. Lewis, The Maori (1984); J. Irwin, An Introduction to Maori Religion (1984).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



the indigenous population of New Zealand, numbering approximately 230,000 people (1970, estimate).

Anthropologically, the Maori belong to the Polynesian race, although they display a resemblance to the southern Mongoloids and Australoids. The Maori differ from the majority of Polynesians by having more strongly expressed Melanesian features (some prognathism, thicker lips, etc.), which may indicate that they are of mixed origin. They speak the Maori language (the majority also speak English). The present-day Maori are Christians of various sects (Anglicans, Presbyterians, Catholics, Baptists, etc.).

The ancestors of the modern Maori migrated from central Polynesia to the islands of New Zealand between the tenth and 14th centuries and assimilated the ancient population, which was possibly related to the ancestors of the Melanesians. The principal forms of their economy were slash-and-burn farming (sweet potatoes, yams, taro, etc.), gathering, fishing, and hunting (birds and small animals). The dog was their only domestic animal. The Maori of New Zealand’s South Island also engaged in whaling. For weapons, they used battle-axes, clubs, and spears. Like other Polynesians, the Maori were experienced boat builders and seafarers. Their clothing was made from wild flax. The flax was used for making loincloths and cloaks, which were often covered with bird feathers; they also wore cloaks made of straw and dog skins. By the time of New Zealand’s seizure by Great Britain (first half of the 19th century) the primitive communal system of many Maori tribes was in a stage of disintegration. The strata of chiefs and free and dependent members of the commune were distinguished; patriarchal servitude existed. Folklore (genealogical legends, myths, etc.) and fine arts (especially wood and stone carving) were quite well developed.

The Maori are a national minority in present-day New Zea-land society. The English were forced to recognize a number of economic and political rights for the Maori very early—in fact, immediately after the “Maori Wars” (1843-72), in which the Maori displayed heroism and an ability to fight. In the following decades the Maori were drawn into the system of capitalist relations formed by the New Zealand nation (natsiia,, nation in the historical sense). The small Maori national bourgeoisie opposes the toiling masses, whose standard of living is considerably lower than that of the rest of New Zealanders. Most Maori are engaged in agricultural work—farming, livestock raising, and forestry. The process of Maori ethnic consolidation, which is intricately interwoven with the process of mixing the Maori together with the English New Zealanders, began in the 20th century. After World War II there has been a vigorous revival of the distinctive forms of Maori artistic culture, which is becoming an organic part of New Zealand’s all-national culture.


Bakhta, V. M. “Maori v sovremennom novozelandskom obshchestve.” In the collection Avstraliia i Okeaniia. Moscow, 1970. (Bibliography.)
Metge, J. The Maoris of New Zealand. New York [1967].
Pearce, G. L. The Story of the Maori People. London [1968].
Cowan, J. The Caltex Book of Maori Lore. Wellington [1969].
Encyclopedia of New Zealand, vols. 1-3. Wellington, 1966.
Taylor, C. R. H. A Bibliography of Publications on the New Zealand Maori and the Morion of the Chatham Islands. Oxford, 1972.




the language of the Maori people, the indigenous population of New Zealand.

Maori is related to the eastern group of the Polynesian branch of the Malayo-Polynesian (Austronesian) language family. There are approximately 230,000 Maori speakers (1970 estimate). The sound system consists of five vowels, six diphthongs, and ten consonants. The parts of speech are loosely delimited. Grammatical categories are few in number. A distinctive feature of the Maori language, as in other Polynesian languages, is the presence of a special class of particles—nominal and predicative particles—the function of which is to indicate that a following word belongs to a specific part of speech (class of words). Among the predicative particles are e—particle of action in general; i— particle of action in the past; kia—wish, desire; and kua—completion of action. Examples of these particles are kua haere, “went”, and e haere, “to go,” “I go,” and so forth. Nominal particles include te (the definite article) and ngaa (the plural marker)—for example, te hiwi, “the mountain,” he hiwi, “mountain” (in general); and ngaa hiwi, “mountains.” Nouns and adjectives are not inflected for gender and number. In a sentence the predicate precedes the subject and an attributed member precedes the attributive. There are a number of borrowings (mainly from English) in the vocabulary.


Krupa, V. lazyk maori. Moscow, 1967.
Tregear, E. The Maori-Polynesian Comparative Dictionary. Wellington, 1891.
Williams, H. W. A Dictionary of the Maori Language, 6th ed. Wellington, 1957.
Reed, A. W. Concise Maori Dictionary, 3rd ed. Wellington, 1964.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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