About Tangata Whenua, People of the Land

Weaving in New Zealand

The indigenous people of New Zealand are Māori or Tangata Whenua (people of the land). 

The Māori people have a rich culture and language which has a significant influence on all New Zealand residents. Māori culture is unique and is shared freely with those who live here and visitors to Aotearoa. The Kiwi identity is founded on two cultural traditions: one which is Māori and one which is Western, (influenced by the early European settlers). The weaving together of these cultures began around 250 years ago with the first arrival of Europeans.

This coming together has supported the formation of a unique Kiwi culture that is still evolving. From a historical and sociological perspective, New Zealand is a young nation. We’re still facing the effects of British colonisation on our people.


It’s important to respect the Māori culture with its traditions, customs and importantly its people. If you have the opportunity to meet with members of our Māori community, you normally greet them with a hongi (touching of noses) or a kiss on the cheek. Another mark of respect is for you to take your shoes off prior to entering the Marae (meeting place) or home of a Māori person. Traditional Māori food is hāngi (meat and vegetables cooked in the ground or cooked in a steamer). Other popular foods are a boil-up (meat, vegetables, and dumplings cooked together in a pot), seafood, fried bread and rēwena bread (a type of sourdough bread).


Waka on the water in New Zealand

Kiwi culture is welcoming to people of all countries and cultures. We welcome all religions and support the right for people to have their own beliefs and value systems. Over the past few decades, we have become an increasingly multicultural society.

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