In New Zealand society, "iwi" (IPA2|iwi) form the largest everyday social units in Māori populations. The word "iwi" means "people" or "folk"; in many contexts it might translate as "tribe" or as "clan", with the distinction that it may sometimes refer to a larger grouping of tribes. Anthropological research however, tends to indicate that most Māori in pre-European times gave their primary allegiance to relatively small groups such as "whānau" (extended families) or "hapū" (sub-tribes).

Bones or roots

In the Māori language, "iwi" also means "bones". The Māori author, Keri Hulme, named her best-known (1985 Booker Prize) novel "The Bone People", a title linked directly to the dual meaning of bone and "tribal people". Māori may refer to returning home after travelling or living elsewhere as "going back to the bones" — literally to the burial-areas of the ancestors. Many societies might use the analogous concept of "roots".

Hierarchies of structure

"Iwi" groups trace their ancestry to the original Māori settlers who, according to tradition, arrived from Hawaiki. In turn, one can conceptualise some "iwi" as clustering into even larger groupings based on genealogical tradition, known as "waka" (literally: "canoes", with reference to the original migration voyages), but these super-groupings generally serve symbolic rather than practical functions. Each "iwi" sub-divides into a number of "hapū" ("sub-tribes"). For example, the Ngāti Whātua iwi consists of four hapū: Te Uri-o-Hau, Te Roroa, Te Taou, and Ngāti Whātua ki Ōrākei.

Perceived problems with identification

In modern-day New Zealand, iwi groups may exercise significant political power in the recovery and management of land and of other assets. (Note for example the 1997 settlement between the New Zealand Government and Ngāi Tahu, compensating that iwi for various losses of the rights guaranteed under the Treaty of Waitangi of 1840.) Iwi affairs can have a very real impact on New Zealand politics and society. A current claim by some iwi that they own the seabed and foreshore in their areas has polarised public opinion (see New Zealand foreshore and seabed controversy).

However, increasing urbanisation of Māori has led to a situation where a significant percentage do not identify with an iwi. The following extract from a recent High Court of New Zealand judgmentFact|date=March 2008 (discussing the process of settling fishing-rights) illustrates some of the issues:

... 81 percent of Māori now live in urban areas, at least one-third live outside their tribal influence, more than one-quarter do not know their iwi or for some reason do not choose to affiliate with it, at least 70 percent live outside the traditional tribal territory and these will have difficulties, which in many cases will be severe, in both relating to their tribal heritage and in accessing benefits from the settlement. It is also said that many Māori reject tribal affiliation because of a working class unemployed attitude, defiance and frustration. Related but less important factors, are that a hapu may belong to more than one iwi, a particular hapu may have belonged to different iwi at different times, the tension caused by the social and economic power moving from the iwi down rather than from the hapu up, and the fact that many iwi do not recognise spouses and adoptees who do not have kinship links.

In the [http://www.stats.govt.nz/domino/external/pasfull/pasfull.nsf/web/Media+Release+2001+Census+Snapshot+16+Iwi?open 2001 census] , 32.6 percent of the 604,110 people who claimed Māori ancestry did not state their "iwi", or only stated a general geographical region or merely gave a canoe-name. It seems that the number who "don’t know" has remained relatively constant over the last three censuses, despite measures such as the " [http://teohu.maori.nz/archive/miscellaneous/tangaroa/Tangaroa%2067.pdf Iwi Helpline] ".

Iwi and politics


Iwi can become a prospective vehicle for ideas and ideals of self-determination and/or "tino rangatiratanga". Thus the "Rules of the Maori Party" (Māori Party Constitution) mentions in its preamble "the dreams and aspirations of tangata whenua to achieve self-determination for whānau, hapū and iwi within their own land". [cite web
url= http://www.maoriparty.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1056&Itemid=94
title= The Rules of the Maori Party
accessdate= 2008-09-07
publisher= The Māori Party
quote= The Maori Party is born of the dreams and aspirations of tangata whenua to achieve self-determination for whānau, hapū and iwi within their own land; to speak with a strong, independent and united voice; and to live according to kaupapa handed down by our ancestors.

The vision for the Maori Party will be based on these aspirations [...] ] Some Tūhoe envisage self-determination in specifically iwi-oriented terms. [cite news
first = Yvonne
last = Tahana
authorlink =
author =
coauthors =
title = Tuhoe leader backs self rule
url = http://www.nzherald.co.nz/section/1/story.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10526089
work = The New Zealand Herald
publisher = APN
location = Auckland
id =
pages =
page =
date = 2008-08-09
accessdate = 2008-09-07
language =
quote = Calls from Maori activist Tame Iti for self-government arrangements for the Tuhoe tribe similar to those Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have in the UK have been backed by a leader likely to negotiate the tribe's Treaty settlement. ... While other iwi have focused on economic transfer of assets as a way of achieving tino rangatiratanga or self-determination, Tuhoe have spelled out their intention to negotiate constitutional issues.
archiveurl =
archivedate =

Challenge from urban Māori

In recent years, "urban Māori" have challenged the established tribal ("iwi"-based) power-base. Urban Māori form groups of people that, while unashamedly Māori, either choose not to identify with any particular "iwi", or are unable to do so (possibly because they do not know their ancestral "iwi"). Individual Māori persons or groups may decide to support non-tribal structures because (for example) they believe the existing "iwi" do not give significant value to them, or that they believe that "iwi" cannot understand their point-of-view.

Urban Māori, typically urban bred, mayOr|date=March 2008 identify with European culture to a much larger degree than rural Māori, and often feel that a non-"iwi" group may best represent their needs. It remains unclear how the traditional "iwi" groups will respond to this phenomenon. (Thus far, some appear dismissive of these notions.Fact|date=March 2008) Notably, one such urban groupFact|date=March 2008 established itself in the belief that urban Māori do not get their fair share of " Treaty settlements" between the Māori people and the New Zealand government.


Some established pan-tribal organizations may also undercut the otherwise important iwi. The Ratana Church, for example. operates in may respects across iwi divisions, and the Māori King Movement aims to transcend some iwi functions in a wider grouping.

Well-known iwi groups

Prominent "iwi" include:

* Ngāi Tahu or "Kāi Tahu" (based in the south of New Zealand - most of the South Island.)
* Ngā Puhi (the largest "iwi", with over 100,000 people stating their affiliation to it in the 2001 census; based in Northland)
* Ngāti Kahungunu - Hawke's Bay and Wairarapa
* Ngāti Maniapoto (based in the Waikato-Waitomo region)
* Ngāti Porou - Gisborne-East Cape
* Ngāti Tama (based in Taranaki and Wellington)
* Ngāti Toa (based in Porirua, having migrated from Kawhia in the 1820s under the leadership of Te Rauparaha)
* Ngāti Ruanui (based in the Taranaki region)
* Ngāti Whātua (based in and north of Auckland - notably Bastion Point in Orakei)
* Tainui (based in the Waikato region)
* Te Arawa (Bay of Plenty) - with several subtribes
* Te Ātiawa - Taranaki and Lower Hutt
* Tūhoe (Urewera/Whakatane)
* Ngāti Tūwharetoa (based in the central North Island)
* Whakatohea (based in the Opotiki district)

Note that each "iwi" has a generally recognised territory ("rohe"), but many of these overlap, sometimes completely. [ [http://www.waitangi-tribunal.govt.nz/reports/viewchapter.asp?reportID=A949CD08-4825-48BF-B038-FAC923793297&chapter=12 Waitangi Tribunal - About the Reports ] ] This has added a layer of complication to the long-running discussions and court cases about how to resolve historical Treaty-claims. The length of coastline emerged as one factor in the final (2004) legislation to allocate fishing-rights in settlement of commercial fisheries claims.


Many names of iwi begin with "Ngai" or with "Ngāti" (from "ngā āti", meaning "the offspring of"). "Ngati" has become a productive morpheme in New Zealand English to refer to groups of people: Ngāti Skippy (Australian Maori), Ngati Pakeha (Pākehā as a group), Ngati Ranana (Maori living in London), Ngati Cloggy (New Zealanders of Dutch descent).

See also

* List of Māori iwi
* runanga


External links

* [http://www.united-tribes.com/tribal_areas.htm Map of tribal areas]
* [http://www.tainui.co.nz/ The home page of the Waikato tribe, one of the tribes of the Tainui waka]
* [http://www.ngaitahu.iwi.nz/ Ngāi Tahu homepage]
* [http://www.ngapuhi.iwi.nz/ Ngapuhi homepage]
* [http://www.nzherald.co.nz/storydisplay.cfm?storyID=3452740&thesection=news&thesubsection=general Urban Māori article in "The New Zealand Herald] " (details on the creation and rationale for the National Urban Māori Authority)
* [http://www.teara.govt.nz/NewZealanders/MaoriNewZealanders/TribalOrganisation/en "Tribal organisation"] in Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand

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