Te ao Māori
Te ao Māori

"Toi tu te kupu, toi tu te mana, toi tu te whenua"

This proverb was spoken by Tinirau of Wanganui. It is a plead to hold fast to our culture, for without language, without mana (spirit), and without land, the essence of being Māori would no longer exist, but be a skeleton which would not give justice to the full body of Māoritanga (Māoridom).

Māori identity

An understanding of the Māori world (te ao Māori) embraces an interconnectedness and interrelationship of both living and non-living things. 'Te Hoe Nuku Roa' (Durie, 1995) provides one framework for understanding elements underpinning Māori identity.

  • Tangata whenua: The people’s relationship with the land (which provides a sense of belonging).
  • Wairua: Spirituality (which provides a sense of meaning, connection and purpose).
  • Whakapapa: Ancestral ties (which provide ancestral-based wisdom and appropriate guidelines for living).
  • Tikanga Māori: Customs (which carry values and cultural practices unique to Māori people).

The 'Koru of Māori Ethics' was developed by Manuka Henare in 1998. The core Māori values of Mana (respect), Mauri (life force), Tapu (sacredness), Io (God), and Hau (essence of vitality) are depicted in the centre of the koru as the founding values that inform the ethical concepts and practices of Kotahitanga, Wairuatanga, Whanaungatanga and Kaitiakitanga.

Tikanga Māori values

Value Description What it looks like
Whanaungtanga A sense of belonging Getting to know one another
Manakitanga Ability to extend aroha Rangatahi helping each other, Tautoko, coaching, awhi-support, active listening, walking the walk, follow up


Everyone doing the same thing at the same time
Rangatiratanga Self-governance Being in control
Mohiotanga Sharing of information Building on knowledge
Maramatanga Understanding Learning something and how to apply it
Tuakana / Teina Older/younger relationships Experienced helping those less experienced
Kaitiakitanga Guard our taonga e.g. traditional Māori takaro, tikanga, natural resources Benevolent guardianship – not so much keeping others away, as sharing with reciprocity (giving back)
Whakapapa Genealogy of the rangatahi, the history of the tipuna and the waahi Making whānau links in groups. Mihi / Pepeha, learn and share, whakapapa of taonga takaro, place names, waka, connections
Wairua(-tanga) Spiritual wellbeing A sense of wellbeing. A connection to whenua, ngahere, moana, maunga, awa
Tikanga The placing into practice that which is correct Understanding rules and boundaries and what is right thing
Hakari Celebratory feast Sharing of kai, Whakawhanaungatanga


Paying respect to nga Atua Karakia, knowing & respecting the realms of each atua and their roles in our everyday lives. Learning around Nga Atua Māori and the roles they play in te Ao Māori

Indigenous knowledge has value

The power of Kawa, Tikanga, and Kaupapa to provide answers to today's problems - By Curtis Bristowe, TEDxRuakura.

Mana: The power in knowing who you are

Providing an historical, contextual discussion of Māori identity in the context of treaty settlements, collective identity, connection to the land and iwi - By Tame Iti, TEDxAuckland.

NZDF support

Some Māori have a strong sense of place in te ao Māori while others may feel their identity is less strongly connected to their Māori heritage, or they're disconnected from this world. It’s never too late to begin exploring your heritage further.

If you would like to explore these questions yourself, or to learn more about te ao Māori, contact your nearest Maori Cultural Advisor, Kaumātua or Marae.