Māori culture & customs

Where can I find information about traditional Māori culture and customs?

Senior Primary

(Years 5-8)

Colour photo from the Whakarewarewa village in Rotorua, Aotearoa NZ. It shows a marae ātea (courtyard) in front of a wharenui (meeting house).

Image: Marae (meeting place) by Jane Nearing on Flickr

Entry last updated: 16/10/23


Māori were the first people to settle in New Zealand.They were known to have their own unique tikanga (customs). However the coming of the European settlers in the late 18th and early 19th centuries had a huge impact on the customs and tradition of Māori.

Pre-European Māori

Pre-European Māori refers to the time when Māori first arrived in Aotearoa till the arrival of James Cook in 1769.

Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand

Te Ara is an excellent starting point for all questions about New Zealand. If we look down to the bottom of the page we can see that the website belongs to the Ministry for Culture & Heritage, so the information is well-researched and reliable.

Each of the Sections on the home page has some information on the early Māori life. For example:

In the same way:

Tips: Te Ara is bilingual which means you can read this site in in Māori or English. If we look at the bottom of the page we can see that the website belongs to the Ministry for Culture & Heritage, so the information is well-researched and reliable.

Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

New Zealand's national museum in Wellington has lots of information on Māori history and culture that can be read online.

Tips: We like sites like this because they’re reliable. You can tell because of their web address – they have either .govt or .ac, meaning they are from government or educational organisations. They’re also New Zealand sites, so relevant for us.

Colonial New Zealand

Colonial New Zealand is the period between the arrival of James Cook in 1769 until 1914. The websites below will help you understand the impact early European settlers had on various aspects of Māori life such as religion, agriculture, food and land ownership.

Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand

The area called Sections has many links that explore the influence colonisation had on Māori life.

For example:

Tips: Search words, or keywords, are the most important words in our topic search. Usually it’s better to leave out small words like ‘the’, ‘a’ and ‘of’ and just choose the main ones, e.g Māori agriculture, Māori religion. We can always change our keywords or add more if we need to.


NZHistory is a great website for information about events, people and places in New Zealand's history. If we go all the way down the page we can see that the website belongs to the Ministry for Culture & Heritage, so the information is well-researched and reliable.

Each of the three sections leads to information on Māori life in colonial New Zealand.

Tips: We like sites that are from government or other reputable organisations, because we can trust the information. You can sometimes tell these sites by their web address – they might have .govt or .edu in their address – or by looking at their About us or Contact pages.

Māori culture today

Māori culture and customs are very much alive today. We experience it in the haka, Māori food, language and waiata sung on special occasions.

Christchurch City Libraries

This website that belongs to the Christchurch City Council. It has a page of useful links that relate to Māori customs, tradition and celebration.

  • Open the tab called Explore and find the link called Te Ao Māori under Subject Guides.

  • Select the link Te Ao Māori - tamariki and explore links and headings eg Crafts, Food and kai and more.

  • Te Whata Raki is an interactice online world where you can find out about traditional stories and more.

Tips: Many web pages have links to further information or to other recommended sites. Following these links is a great way to find out more. This searching method is called “pearl growing” because you are picking up pieces of sand to make a beautiful pearl!

Live and Work New Zealand

This website from Immigration New Zealand is to help people live and work in New Zealand. It has some useful information on Māori culture and customs.

  • Enter 'Māori food' into the search box and try the link Māori food and recipes and learn about hangi and it's preparation.

  • Or enter other search words like 'Māori culture' or 'Māori customs' to explore other useful content on this site eg Māori culture.


Many books have been written on Māori culture and customs and the following are a very small selection. Check with your local public and school libraries for a bigger range of titles.

Some interesting titles:

SCIS no: 1936750

Topics covered

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