New Zealand's indigenous people came from tropical Polynesia more than 1000 years ago. Learning to live in New Zealand shaped their thinking and their beliefs until they became Te Maori, a race clearly distinct from other Polynesian cultures.
Maori oral history names Kupe as the first explorer to discover New Zealand. He and his companion, Ngahue, captained two sea-going waka (canoes), Matahorua and Tawiri-rangi, and sailed south from Hawaiki to see what lay beyond the horizon.
The first sign of a major land mass was a build up of white cloud in the distance. Kupe's wife, Hine-te-aparangi, called out "He ao he ao! He aotea! He aotearoa" ("A cloud, a cloud! A white cloud! A long white cloud!"), and so the land was named Aotearoa—'Land of the long white cloud'.
After circumnavigating the North and South Islands of Aotearoa, Kupe and his crew returned to Hawaiki with treasures such as preserved moa flesh and pounamu (greenstone).
The story of Kupe's remarkable voyage, and other such endeavours, were passed on from one generation to the next through storytelling and song.
The tradition of oral history—the telling of ancient stories, myths and legends—continues today. On many marae, elders teach tribal lore, etiquette and genealogy. They also retell the stories that form the basis of Maori beliefs, including the story of how Maui fished up the North Island and how the saddleback got it's name.
Kupe and Te Wheke - A long time ago in far away Hawaikii, a Tohunga (a magic man) named Muturangi, sat brooding, thinking of his revenge upon the villagers who had banished him to the far and lonely side of the island...(more)
He Ika A Maui - Maui was determined to go fishing with his brothers, but they did not want to take maui with them, and so he stowed away on their fishing boat until they were well out to sea...(more)
Maui and Tieke - Maui had a pet blackbird (Tieke) that always kept him company, sitting on his shoulder while he made the ropes from flax and the ti tree to make a net...(more)