Brushing Up on My History

As I may have said before, I am not a native Kiwi. I wish I was, but we cannot choose where we are born, can we? At any rate, I came here on holiday and never wanted to leave. Now I live and work here and I am happier than ever.  I have tried to learn as much as I can about my adopted home, and the internet has definitely helped me with that.

I have been very interested to learn about the Māori people and their culture. If you didn’t already know, they likely sailed here from Hawaiki (the native island of the Polynesian people), 1000 years ago using only celestial navigation and currents. Māori built villages called pā to keep themselves safe. You can still see some of these sites, and if you come here for any length of time, you should. I recommend reading the blog posts on or visiting Rotorua to learn more about Māori culture and history.

The next visitors to New Zealand were the Europeans. Their first visit did not go well, and it took over 120 years for them to get up the courage to come back. First the British, then the French, arrived in the hopes of expanding their empires. The Māori gained a bit of a reputation, the country was nicknamed “Cannibal Islands” and for a long time it was just sailors, whalers, and the occasional missionary who bothered coming by. Once guns were brought to the islands, things got even more difficult.

Finally, the British decided to protect its settlers and the land. Māori chiefs agreed, because they didn’t want any other Europeans coming and taking even more land away from them. The Treaty of Waitangi was signed in 1840, officially making New Zealand a British colony. There is a museum dedicated to the treaty signing, and you can learn more about it here: or you can visit yourself.

Much of our government and education system are based on the British and show our colonial roots. Some colonial inspired architecture remains as well. But as New Zealand settled down and grew up, it formed its own allies and developed an identity all of its own. While still part of the British Commonwealth, New Zealand is a country in its own right and acts accordingly.

One of the most interesting things for me to learn about is the legends of New Zealand. Because the country has been occupied for so long, there are plenty of stories. For example, the Māori believed that New Zealand’s North Island was created by the demigod Māui, who fished it out of the sea using a magical jawbone as a fish hook. His four brothers carved up the fish for themselves, creating the topography we see today. Māori still call the North Island Te Ika a Māui, meaning Māui’s fish. And if you look at the island, you can see why: its head is at the south and you can see a tail-like shape in the north part of the island. The South Island is called Maui’s canoe, Te Waka a Māui. If you’d like to learn more about New Zealand legends, here is a fun page to check out:

I hope you enjoyed reading this post and maybe you learned a little something!