Like the early Hawaiians, the Maori are Polynesian, probably from the same ancestral home, perhaps in the Cook Islands or the Marquesas. New Zealand, like Hawaii, isolated by water, had no mammals. The moa, now extinct, was a flightless bird, some standing ten feet tall. They and other flightless birds were easy prey.
The Maori, like the Hawaiians, numbered about 250,000 in Captain Cook’s time but had been decimated by disease to about 60,000 by 1860. Only about half of present-day Maoris live in rural communities.
The early Maoris were even more warlike than the Hawaiians, with feuds running through several generations. The vanquished were enslaved or eaten. Today they constitute about 10 percent of the population.
The Maoris and their culture are of major tourist interest. Their war dances are something to remember. In posture dancing the warriors keep the rhythm by stamping their feet. With war clubs in hand they respond to the leader’s commands with gestures, feet stamping and sticking out their tongues and making facial contortions the Maori version of macho.
Unfortunately for New Zealand many of its young people leave the country each year because of what they view as lack of opportunity at home. University graduates particularly feel stymied in their careers and go abroad. The Aussies joke about this exodus from New Zealand and quip, The last one out, turn out the lights.â
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