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Iwi (pronounced ee-wee) are the largest social unit in Māori culture. The meaning is analogous to that of tribe. Each Iwi can be divided into a number of Hapu (or sub-tribe). (For example, the Ngati Whatua iwi consists of the hapu: Te Uri O Hau, Te Roroa, Te Taou and Ngati Whatua.)

Table of contents

Well known Iwi groups There are a number of prominent Iwi, notably

  • Ngāi Tahu (based in the south of the country.)
  • Ngati Whatua (based in an area north of Auckland)
  • Ngati Ruanui (based in the Taranaki region)
  • add more

Note that each Iwi had their own territory, and that no two Iwi had overlapping territories.

Traditional power

Modern Day Contrary to one might expect, most Iwi groups do still exist and have significant political power. Notably, the recent fisheries settlement between the New Zealand government and the Ngāi Tahu (?), compensating that Iwi for rights lost in the Treaty of Waitangi. Iwi affairs have a very real impact on New Zealand politics and society.

Challange from Urban Māori In recent years, there has been a challenge to the established tribal (iwi-based) Māori power base, in the form of "Urban Māori". These are a group of people that, while unashamedly Māori, either choose not to identify with any particular iwi, or are unable to (typically because they do not know which iwi they are descended from). A particular Māori person may decide to support non-tribal structures because they believe the existing Iwi do not give significant value to them, or that they believe that iwi are unable to understand their point-of-view. They are typically urban bred, and probably identify with European culture to a much larger degree than traditional Māori, and often feel that a non-iwi group best represents their needs. How the traditional Iwi groups respond to this situation remains to be seen. (As yet, some appear dismissive of these notions.) Notably, one such group has been created believing that Urban Māori are not getting their fair share of "treaty settlements" between the Māori people and the New Zealand government.

Traditional weight Iwi groups are able to trace their ancestry to the original Māori settlers that arrived from Hawaiiki, at least according to tradition. Māori with Iwi connections typically value them highly and place great pride in knowing their genealogy.

The word literally means "bones".

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