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Any member of a Polynesian people of New Zealand. Maori traditional history describes their origins in terms of waves of migration from a mythical land between the 12th and 14th centuries, but archaeologists have dated habitations in New Zealand back to at least AD 800. Their first European contact was with Abel Janszoon Tasman (1642), who did battle with a group of Maori. Later Europeans were initially welcomed, but the arrival of muskets, disease, Western agricultural methods, and missionaries corroded Maori culture and social structure, and conflicts arose. The British assumed formal control of New Zealand in 1840; war over land broke out repeatedly over the next three decades. By 1872 all fighting had ended and great tracts of Maori land had been confiscated. Today about 9% of New Zealanders are classified as Maori; nearly all have some European ancestry. Though largely integrated into modern urban life, many Maori keep alive traditional cultural practices and struggle to retain control of their ancestral lands.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on Maori, visit Britannica.com.