The Maori are the native people of New Zealand. They are Polynesians meaning they are related to the people's of Polynesia which include Samoans, Tongans, Cook Islanders, Easter Islanders, Tahitians, and Hawaiians. The Maori number over 500,000 inhabitants today which is around 15% of New Zealand's total population. Over 90% of Maori live in the North Island.
Evidence suggests that the Maori originally immigrated to New Zealand from the Cook, Society, and Marquesas island groups in the Pacific about one thousand years ago. According to Maori oral accounts, their ancestors migrated here using a fleet of canoes. Before the arrival of European colonists in the late 18th century, the Maori had established themselves throughout New Zealand.
New Zealand became an official colony of Britain in 1841. From 1843 to 1872, European settlements were established which led to violent battles between the Maori and Europeans. This period of time is called the New Zealand Wars. After these wars, some land was confiscated from the Maori and during this time the Maori population also suffered decline as a direct result of these wars and the onslaught of introduced diseases from Europe.
Today the Maori have generally adjusted to western civilisation and the population has rebounded strongly as the birth rate among Maori is higher than Pakeha. In 1980 a government organisation known as the Waitangi Tribunal was established to handle claims based on the Treaty of Waitangi and historical confiscation of land. The result has been the return or recompense of some illegally obtained land.