Journey of the First Maori Settlers Reaching New Zealand
The Maori are descendants of Polynesian peoples. Estimates differ but it is generally thought that the first Polynesian canoes with Maori settlers landed on the New Zealand shores around 1000 AD. According to various sources these highly skilled seafarers came from the homeland called Hawaiki. Nowadays better known as the eastern region of Polynesia such as Tahiti and the Cook Islands.
Migrating birds flying the same direction each year would have been an indication for the Polynesians that other, unexplored, lands existed. This sparkled the idea of exploring new worlds and led to the initiation of the first great crossing. According to a legend connected to the Ngapuhi iwi (tribe) the gods blessed this journey by not letting the sun set for three days. A scientific explanation for the origin of this legend could be the existence of an extremely bright star which would lead to the Crab Nebula supernova. This star is reported to be visible even during daytime. It would probably have lit the skies during nightfall thus guiding the first Maori to their new homeland.
But even then the crossing of these vast masses of ocean with its prevailing winds and tides in relatively small seaworthy canoes (waka) was an exceptional achievement by the Polynesian navigators. Their extraordinary detailed knowledge of the stars probably helped them in their nautical navigation skills.
Oral tradition indicates the first Polynesian canoes arrived at the East Coast of the North Island. These first Maori settlers called their newly discovered land Aotearoa; the land of the big white cloud.
Until the European boats made landfall on the shores of Aotearoa, the Maori had a stone-age, but nonetheless highly developed, culture. Carving tools and weapons from wood, stone, bone, and greenstone was a daily life necessity in order to survive. The practice of carving (whakairo) evolved into a craftsmanship with a ceremonial character. The most precious carvings became treasured objects called ‘taonga’.