Once we were gardeners

 

Famed for the haka, tribal warfare, ta moko and the world’s greatest rugby team, it’s comes as no surprise that māori are known as fierce, warrior-like people.

 

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The New Zealand All Blacks rugby team have popularised the haka by intimidating their opponents with it before each game.

 

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Ta Moko is the traditional form of māori tattooing which was outlawed by the British when they colonised New Zealand. Suffice to say, it didn’t die out, but simply went underground – until it’s modern day resurgence and reclamation.

 

With a history of territorial skirmishes with each other –  and then with the British after colonisation – there’s no doubt that māori are fiery, passionate people.

 

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The Treaty of Waitangi is New Zealand’s founding document and was signed by British and Māori chiefs in 1840. The British and Māori versions of the document varied significantly – including the māori’s authority to retain governance over their own lands (rangatiratanga). The Māori version allowed for rangatiratanga while the British version removed it.

 

Yet despite the popularised image of the ‘noble savage’, at the time of European arrival in 1769, most māori were peaceful traders and gardeners who fed their whanau (families) from communally worked lands.

 

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Traditionally, Sweet Potato was the most widespread crop, followed by taro, yam, gourd and tī pore (Pacific cabbage tree) being grown in the north. After European arrival, Māori replaced their traditional crops with those brought by Europeans. Their main crop was soon potatoes, which provided a heavier and more reliable food source than kūmara, and could be grown throughout the country. Corn, cabbages, tobacco, carrots, turnips, squash, swedes and new varieties of kūmara were also added to Māori gardens.

 

And so to that end, perhaps it’s not just that we once were warriors – but also that we once were gardeners.

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