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The Maori social hierarchy

Paper type: Essay
Pages: 3 (519 words)
Categories: Civilization, Cultural Identity, Culture
Downloads: 4
Views: 1

From the beginning of their existence the Maori people have constructed their lifestyle around many key concepts that affect both the social and spiritual dimensions of their world. The three main notions which are at the heart of all other customs and beliefs are tapu (shared, set apart, special things; influenced by the atua [gods]), noa (ordinary, mundane things, used to lift tapu) and mana (power, authority; social hierarchy) (Duncan 2012).

These concepts have all remained, despite conflicts with contemporary science, very important in the everyday life of the Maori people.

This essay will concentrate on elaborating on the idea of mana and how it is relevant to the powhiri (ritual welcome ceremony on a marae (a place where Maori tradition is maintained; physical connection of whakapapa)) process, specifically during the Karanga (call between the women). Mana dictates whether a person has power/authority over people, it also represents an individual or groups’ prestige and influence over others.

(Ka’ai & Higgins 2004:14)

All people possess mana but at varying amounts, delegated by a range of sources. Generally, the amount of mana is directly connected to ones whakapapa (genealogy), which transfers the status of one’s ancestors from the Te Taha Wairua (spiritual side) to the Te Taha Kikikiko (physical side) (Duncan 2012). This is most evident in, the primary source of mana, mana atua (mana from the gods). Mana atua occurs when you are the eldest child, of a long line of elder sons, referred to as tuakana (senior line) (Ka’ai & Higgins 2004:14).

These families are very rare in modern times and are considered direct decedents from the atua. The ariki (paramount chiefs) are seen as descendants from the tuakana and this is why they were the ariki of iwi (tribes) as opposed to the rangatira (chiefs) who were more distant from the gods, and hence had less mana than ariki which in turn meant that the rangatira were leaders of hapa (sub-tribes) (Bowden 2003:53). The next source of mana is also largely centred on whakapapa; it is recognized as mana ta puna (mana from your ancestors).

All people are considered long decedents from the atua, however the Maori people also believed that mana could be achieved through individuals’ actions and this mana could also be passed down family generations (Patterson 1992:150). This is why mana ta puna exists, it is power or respect gained from a persons’ more recent ta puna (ancestors). Usually families with high mana ta puna are those within a community or hapa, which has applied a great deal of manaaki (care for others) to everyone in their society (Duncan 2012).

Mana ta puna is deeply embedded near the top of the Maori social hierarchy, this helps certain people to uphold social control and maintain their customs, beliefs and rituals (Patterson 1992:148). Mana whenua (mana from land), is also largely dependent on whakapapa, however, on this occasion it is more concerned with the physical world. Hapa, families and individuals can all trace their whakapapa to a particular piece of land, which they recognize as their ‘home’ as it is where their ta puna originated from (Duncan 2012).

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The Maori social hierarchy. (2020, Jun 02). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/maori-social-hierarchy-12461-new-essay

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