Story: Ngā tāone nui – Māori and the city

Page 5. Māori adapt to city life

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Adapting to cities

As Māori moved into the cities they had to meet the challenges of an urban environment, including finding employment and housing, and access to education. They encountered a significantly different cultural environment, where European customs were predominant and English was the main language. One way of countering this was relocating Māori culture to the city. Cultural clubs, Māori churches and Māori sports teams were set up.

For issues relating to housing and welfare, tribal councils, the Māori Women’s Welfare League, churches and the Māori Affairs Department played important roles.

Māori cultural groups

During the 1930s a number of young Māori moved to Wellington to work. The Ngāti Pōneke Young Māori Club was established in 1937 for Māori to socialise and participate in their culture. It was a pan-tribal group. Apirana Ngata coined the name Ngāti Pōneke – Pōneke was the Māori name for Port Nicolson. Throughout the Second World War Ngāti Pōneke performed concerts to entertain visitors and raise funds for troops overseas. Over time a number of other cultural groups followed Ngāti Pōneke's lead, including Ngāti Akarana in Auckland and Ngāti Rānana in London.

Māori and churches

Māori in the cities would often attend churches which, while not local, would have a significant Māori attendance, or would conduct services in the Māori language. Some organised services in their homes, including Anglican, Catholic and Methodist services, as well as services of Māori-based churches like Rātana and Ringatū.

Urban marae

Urban marae were established where Māori could conduct occasions according to their own cultural norms. Some of the pan-tribal urban marae included Pipitea marae in Wellington, Ngā Hau e Whā in Christchurch, Araiteuru in Dunedin and Hoani Waititi in Auckland.

The Presbyterian, Anglican and Catholic churches all established church-based marae in the cities. Tātai Hono Marae (Anglican) and Te Ūnga Waka Marae (Catholic) in Auckland are examples.

Some marae were tribally based, such as Te Tira Hōu in Aucklan, which is affiliated to the Tūhoe tribe and the wider Mataatua confederation.

There have also been a number of education-based marae. Māori-language preschools (kōhanga reo), and kura kaupapa Māori (Māori immersion schooling), both began in the city.

Taura here

Tribal members in the city join taura here (which means binding ropes) to help to retain their identity and links back to tribal homelands. These link back to iwi organisations and often taura here representatives have a place on iwi boards. Te Runanga nui o Ngāti Kahungunu ki te Upoko o Te Ika is the Wellington taura here group for Ngāti Kahungunu. There are two taura here groups in Auckland for Ngāpuhi – Te Taura Here ki Manurewa (South Auckland) and Te Taura Here o Ngāpuhi ki Waitākere (North and West Auckland).

Urban authorities

In the late 20th century a number of urban Māori authorities developed to assist Māori. These included Te Whānau o Waipareira Trust (West Auckland), the Manukau Urban Māori Authority (South Auckland), Te Rūnanga o Kirikiriroa Trust (Hamilton), Te Rūnanganui o te Ūpoko o Te Ika (Wellington) and Te Rūnanga o Ngā Maata Waka (Christchurch).

How to cite this page:

Aroha Harris, 'Ngā tāone nui – Māori and the city - Māori adapt to city life', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/nga-taone-nui-maori-and-the-city/page-5 (accessed 19 November 2018)

Story by Aroha Harris, published 11 Mar 2010