Story: Urban Māori

Page 3. Urban networks

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As the realities of life in the bigger centres hit home, many Māori people turned to various groups for support and fellowship. New associations were formed, where Māori could meet and share activities, concerns and interests. Most of these voluntary groups were not kin-based but had a common purpose of perpetuating Māori identity, values and culture, and helping people with the demands of city life. These groups included Māori clubs, councils, welfare committees and wardens, Māori Women’s Welfare League branches, youth and church groups.

Cultural groups

Māori cultural clubs became popular among the young, who were keen to recapture and develop their knowledge of Māori culture as well as enjoy the social and family focus they provided. For instance, the Ngāti Pōneke Young Māori Club, formed in 1937 under under the tutelage of Kīngi Tāhiwi, became a well-known Wellington institution. It was, as one member commented, ‘a place where the search for a Māori face in the city could stop’. 1

Numerous other urban cultural groups have been formed since. In the 1950s, many young Māori men from the East Coast of the North Island moved south to Christchurch to attend trade courses. In 1961, the group Te Roopu Haka o Te Kotahitanga was set up to bring them back together by teaching them about their cultural roots. Another, Te Waka Huia, was formed in 1986 in Auckland to provide an opportunity for Māori to meet and express their cultural values in the city. This and other urban-based groups have gone on to dominate cultural festivals and competitions over the years.

Political groups

By the 1970s, new generations were also producing the leaders of the modern Māori protest movement. At the forefront was an Auckland-based action group called Ngā Tamatoa. It sought the teaching of Māori language in schools and more than symbolic acknowledgement of the Treaty of Waitangi. It also initiated annual protests over Crown breaches of the Treaty of Waitangi, at Waitangi Day celebrations.

Tribal affiliate groups

Many Māori living in the cities have retained tribal ties, and continue to participate in tribal life. In some instances they may serve on the marae committee or even as urban representatives on tribal trust boards.

Some tribes have also made concerted efforts to connect with city members, particularly through affiliating groups, commonly referred to today as ‘taura here’ (bound ropes). These groups represent the members of a tribe living outside their tribal domain, and reinforce tribal identity.

Looking after your own

John Rangihau, an elder of Tūhoe, remembers the establishment of Tūhoe affiliate groups in the city:

‘My own tribe, Tūhoe, moved to the city later than most …We believed that these young Māori kids who were so lonely in the cities needed to know that their own people were concerned about their plight … And so the formation of our own tribal societies in the city was an attempt to bring them together’. 2

The Tūhoe tribe of the Urewera has an extensive network of tribal affiliate groups in the cities. They are known as Te Tira Hou in Auckland, Te Hono-a-te-kiore in Hamilton and Tūhoe-ki-Pōneke or Tū-te-maunga-roa in Wellington. Every two years at Easter, these groups make the journey ‘home’ to compete with other kin in Te Hui Ahurei, a festival of culture, sports and other activities. The event was established to ensure that contact with the traditional communities is maintained.

In Wellington, people of Tainui descent have come together as Waikato ki roto o Pōneke (Waikato people living in Wellington). The group endeavours to maintain links with Waikato people in Wellington and with the home tribes. They meet to develop their knowledge of tribal culture and traditions, and often return home to participate in tribal festivals.

  1. The silent migration: Ngāti Pōneke Young Māori Club, 1937–1948. Wellington: Huia, 2001, p. 2. › Back
  2. John Rangihau, ‘Being Māori.’ In Te Ao hurihuri: aspects of Māoritanga, edited by Michael King. Auckland: Reed, 1992, pp. 184–185. › Back
How to cite this page:

Paul Meredith, 'Urban Māori - Urban networks', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 21 May 2024)

Story by Paul Meredith, published 8 Feb 2005, updated 17 Feb 2015