Maori tribe structure

The Maori people developed their own system of leadership within their tribes. This is based on chieftainship and occasionally this was a hereditary responsibility passed down through families. Chiefs could be either male or female but there was an expectation that they would prove that they were able to lead others. If they didn’t, their leadership could be challenged and it was not uncommon for leadership of tribes to change as a result of a challenge.

The extended family was an integral part of the culture of the Maori. A Maori tribe would be constructed from several groups of families, known as ‘hapu’. The tribe was known as ‘iwi’. While the hapu would work together to trade or on other projects, it was not uncommon for them to experience conflict and disputes would frequently break out.

Maori history was rarely written down. It was preserved in oral form, with stories and songs. Experts in the tribes memorised long genealogies and were able to recite them going back hundreds of years. While some of their stories have been lost to the passage of time, there are still some Maori who are able to recite the histories.