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Maori also known as “Te Maori” Pitek, Emily


The Maori are indigenous inhabitants of New Zealand, and trace their origin to three waves of settlers from Polynesian islands in 950, 1150, and 1350 (Latham, 2009). The first recorded European contact with the Maori occurred with Captain James Cook’s arrival in 1769, and in the centuries that followed came whalers, traders, missionaries, and the British government (Hawthorn, 1944:7-11). This entry focuses around the time of 1820, before intense European influence. At this time, contact included that with whalers, explorers, and traders. The first missionaries arrived in New Zealand in 1814, but a change in indigenous religious beliefs was gradual and not salient until several decades later. The Maori did not have a distinct religious sphere; religious beliefs and practices were interwoven with secular life and thus the religious group is coterminous with society itself. The key forces in Maori religion are tapu (the prohibitions or laws emanating from the gods), makutu (magic), and mana (spiritual and intellectual power). Present in the supernatural realm are a supreme god, departmental deities/tutelary beings, tribal gods, family gods, and familiar spirits. Religious practitioners include chiefs, priests, and shamans.

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