By Elizabeth J. Leppman
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Additional resources for Australia And the Pacific (Modern World Cultures)
Many Maori converted to Christianity. The Treaty of Waitangi did not end warfare between Europeans and the Maori, and this warfare continued until 1881. Meanwhile the Europeans, known as Pakeha in Maori, continued to invade the countryside, taking Maori land for their own use. Maori died in wars and from diseases, and their population had declined to about 45,000 by 1900. Holding low-status jobs as laborers, they suffered from poverty. Much of their land was far from the economic centers of the country.
Tribal affiliation was (and is) important to the Maori, as it determines who may marry whom—and even who fights whom. The village was centered around the marae, where guests were welcomed, once they had demonstrated their goodwill and friendship. This traditional welcome survives today in communities, even university campuses, that have a marae and hold a traditional welcome ceremony, for example, at the beginning of an academic conference. As intertribal warfare increased because of greater scarcity of food, many of the villages, called pa, were established on volcanic hills, where terracing provided more flat land for building.
Political prisoners began arriving in 1872. They included professional people like doctors and lawyers who were strong believers in equality and public social services. Europeans began seizing people from Melanesia, especially the New Hebrides and the Solomons, for work on the sugar plantations of Queensland, Australia. Aborigines were regarded as subhuman and therefore as unsuitable labor. They could also slip away to rejoin their families, and many died of European diseases to which they had no immunity.