Auckland Maori Culture

Young Maori man performing in a kapahaka group - Photo by Andrew Turner, Flickr Creative CommonsYoung Maori man performing in a kapahaka group - Photo by Andrew Turner, Flickr Creative Commons

Interestingly, when Europeans first began to arrive in Aotearoa – the land of the long white cloud – today known worldwide as New Zealand, Maoris traditional relationship with land rendered the concept of ownership as meaningless, so when land was purchased it is highly probable that chiefs did not know they were selling their assets but rather accepting gifts in exchange for allowing the newcomers live here.

Certainly the first 3,000 acres of Auckland was purchased for a bargain: 50 blankets, 20 pairs of trousers, 20 shirts and other assorted sundries, plus £50 cash, with another £6 paid the following year. Given that Auckland was the highly prized Tamaki Makaurau or “the battle of a hundred lovers” which had been fought over inter-tribally for centuries, it’s doubtful that this was actually a property sale – especially at such a cheap price.

The Maori name for One Tree Hill is Te Totara-i-ahua. It refers to a sacred totara tree that stood here until 1852 when it was replaced by a pine tree by early European settlers. The lone pine whose name this volcanic cone is now known by, was cut down in 2002 after it failed to recover from an attack by chainsaw-wielding activist. These days there is no tree, but many Aucklanders from a range of ethnic backgrounds agree that it is only right that a totara should be replanted on this special site.

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