THE MAORIS OF NEW ZEALAND by Edna McGuire

THE MAORIS OF NEW ZEALAND

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The highly articulated (and articulate) though nonliterate culture of the Maoris as it was before the advent of Europeans is the primary focus of this study; their situation vis a vis missionaries (unreceptive), settlers (hostile) and the present social and political order (cloudy but brightening) is indicated more briefly. Miss McGuire relates the myths of the origin and discovery of the islands and the legends of the great migrations on which tribal land claims and continuing identity were based, describes the pyramid of kinship that maintained the economy and sustained warfare, explains the importance of rank and of tapu (prohibitions) in exercising social control. Interwoven with the routine aspects of life (food, clothing, shelter) are other effects of tapu--e.g. conserving the vital bird population--and some more curious practices. Notable among these was cannibalism, a consequence of the tapu on cooked food (therefore eating your enemy was an insult) and the absence of land animals. At the same time hospitality and generosity were the two most prized qualities. The author accepts and appreciates the Maoris on their own terms, and if she is somewhat sanguine about their prospects of retaining their identity, she does exhibit a thorough understanding of its historic elements. A full treatment (and the only one) for older children.

Pub Date: Oct. 21st, 1968
Publisher: Macmillan