The Maori, New Zealand's native people, by most accounts settled in New Zealand in the 14th century, although some speculate that they may have arrived as early as 1150 A.D. They are of Polynesian descent but may have originally lived on the mainland of what is now modern China [source: Maori.com]. The Maori continued migrating east to several islands over the next few thousand years. They claim to have come to New Zealand from a mythical land called Hawaiki, but experts believe that they migrated from a collection of islands including Samoa, Tahiti and the Cook Islands. They called their new home Aotearoa, which means "land of the long white cloud."
Their journey could not have been an easy one; the winds in the area do not favor traveling in the southeastern direction that the sea journey would have required. The Maori navigated the Pacific in waka houras (voyaging canoes). According to Maori legend, their first explorer, named Kupe, used the stars and ocean currents to find his way [source: New Zealand]. The Maori also paid close attention to bird and whale migrations, so they certainly were aware that a land mass existed near the New Zealand location. Kupe and other explorers likely planned the mass migration, making return journeys back to their original islands. The Maori settled mostly in the northernmost areas of New Zealand, where the climate was warmer [source: NZ Immigration].
When the Maori people arrived on the islands of New Zealand, they found them empty of any other people. They brought with them some vegetables from their homeland, including the sweet potato. The Maori also were fearsome warriors and cannibals, and nearly from the moment of their arrival battled one another for land, prestige and resources. The tribes even fought to avenge harsh insults. Maori wars usually were fought after their summer harvest had been collected, and their combat featured clubs and other hand weapons that resulted in few deaths despite the brutality of the battles.
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