Taniwha, the Maori monsters
The protective creatures of people with an incredible history
New Zealand is one of the last virgin places colonized by humans. Island hidden in the South Pacific, its soil was not trodden by a man or woman until the tenth century, approximately.
It had to be the Austronesians who came to this island. This ancient Asian town began 3000 years ago the greatest transoceanic navigation adventure in history. On board rudimentary canoes where they transported dozens of people, animals and plants, they began migrating thousands of miles to islands lost in the sea, islands whose existence they did not even know.
The Austronesians, thus, colonized territories in four continents (Asia, Oceania, Africa and America).
The navigators who discovered it came from eastern Polynesia (Cook Islands, even Hawaii), and arrived in waves over the next four centuries.
According to Maori legends, the first settlers arrived in seven canoes, each of which founded its own tribe.
The settlement gave the Polynesians a cultural change propitiated by the new ecosystem: from a tropical climate and abundant natural resources, where they practiced fishing and gathering, moved to a temperate climate, where food was scarce and hunting a necessity.
The Maori society, that become more bellicose than the original Polynesian, was of an aristocratic type, even the slaves existed. Each of the great tribes, independent of each other, bore the mythical name of one of the canoes of the original fleet, and was divided into secondary tribes and families.
Each tribe was associated with one “taniwha”, mythical creatures that can be at the same time evil beings or guardians. Some live in caves, others in rivers and lakes, and others in the sea, and they have supernatural powers. They can cause earthquakes and tidal waves, although if they are respected and revered, they help their people.
To calm a taniwha, the Maori must offer gifts, for example the first fruits of the harvest, or a green branch accompanied by a spell.
Although in the first centuries they were mainly dedicated to hunting moas, they ended up causing their extinction, so they had to evolve towards agriculture. The shortage also caused frequent wars between the tribes, and the construction of fortifications. By the eighteenth century, war was the usual way of life of the Maori, who used to practice cannibalism with enemy prisoners. The collection of enemy heads was also common.
At the beginning of the 19th century, contacts with European whalers became more frequent.
The access to firearms on the part of the maories intensified the wars, arriving at the extermination of several tribes. The settlers, who multiplied when discovering gold reserves in the territory, also attacked the Maori, enslaving and kidnapping many of them and murdering between 10 and 50% of the population. In 1840 they declared the island British protectorate.
Having become a minority on the island and deprived of their lands, the Maori culture was on the verge of extinction at the beginning of the 20th century. However, he managed to recover and recover his pride. Today the Maori account for 15% of the population, and their language is still alive with some 120,000 speakers.