The Polynesian's Arrival in New Zealand
When the Maori first came to New Zealand they were not actually Maori, but Polynesians. They continued the Polynesian way of living for more than 300 years. During the next 300 years they began to change their culture. It was then they became Maori.
The Polynesians brought Pacific Island food with them to New Zealand, and tried to grow it. At first the crops did not grow well, due to the fact that it was colder in New Zealand than where they came from. But being skilled farmers, they eventually managed to grow crops such as Kumera.
In addition to successfully growing crops, they became good at trapping and killing Moa. These huge flightless birds were very easy to catch, and provided a lot of good meat. The Moa lived in many places, both inland and costal, so they were not in short supply. Although later they became rare and eventually extinct. This was because their eggs were eaten when Europeans introduced rats to New Zealand.
The Polynesian people were tall and well built. The main health issue they faced was their teeth being worn down. This is because they often ate gritty food such as bracken root. When their teeth became infected, they often died. Most died in their early thirties, and the average life span was 28-29 years.
These new settlers used Greenstone for tools and weapons. They found it could be filed razor sharp and was also strong and extremely hard. The heaviest tool the Polynesians made was a tool used for cutting and shaping wood. Wood was also used a lot - mainly to build houses and canoes; also weapons such as clubs and spears. The Polynesians used the Totara tree for building houses and canoes. They used the Cabbage tree for making smaller things such as clothing, food baskets, rope and fishing nets.
At first the Polynesian people lived peacefully in unprotected villages. But later as disputes over land began, they started to fear attacks from other tribes. Walls were then built around the villages for protection. Soon walls were not enough however, so they began to build fortresses called ‘Pa’s’. Pa’s were a village surrounded by a series of three tall, stable walls. In front of the walls there were clay slopes, making it harder for the walls to be scaled. Behind the walls there were ditches, so if invaders managed to climb over there would be a longer drop to the ground. Not all Pa’s were used at all times. Some were only used if villagers needed a safe place to go.
In conclusion, the Polynesian people had to change their way of living to adapt to their new home. They had to eat different food, build different houses, and survive in a much colder climate. Their culture also changed. Since arriving in New Zealand, the Polynesian people have created new celebrations, songs and traditions. That is how they became the Maori people we know today.