The history of the Māori began with the arrival of Polynesian settlers in New Zealand (Aotearoa in Māori), in a series of ocean migrations in canoes starting from the late 13th or early 14th centuries. Over several centuries of isolation, the Polynesian settlers formed a distinct culture that became known as the Māori.
Early Māori history is often divided into two periods: the Archaic period (c. 1300 – c. 1500) and the Classic period (c. 1500 – c. 1642). Archaeological sites such as Wairau Bar show evidence of early life in Polynesian settlements in New Zealand. Many of the crops that the settlers brought from Polynesia did not grow well at all in the colder New Zealand climate, although many native bird and marine species were hunted, sometimes to extinction. An increasing population, competition for resources and changes in
local climate led to social and cultural changes seen in the Classic period of Māori history. This period saw the emergence of a warrior culture and fortified villages (pā), along with more elaborate cultural art forms. One group of Māori settled the Chatham Islands around 1500, forming a separate, pacifist culture known as the Moriori.
The arrival of Europeans to New Zealand, starting in 1642 with Abel Tasman, brought enormous changes to the Māori, who were introduced to Western food, technology, weapons and culture by European settlers, especially from Britain. In 1840 the British Crown
and many Māori chiefs signed the Treaty of Waitangi, allowing New Zealand to become part of the British Empire and granting Māori the status of British subjects. Initial relations between Māori and Europeans (whom the Māori called "Pākehā") were largely amicable. However, rising tensions over disputed land sales led to conflict in the 1860s and large-scale land confiscations. Social upheaval and epidemics of introduced disease also took a devastating toll on the Māori people, causing their population to
decline and their standing in New Zealand to diminish.
But by the start of the 20th century, the Māori population had begun to recover, and efforts have been made to increase their social, political, cultural and economic standing in wider New Zealand society. A protest movement gained support in the 1960s seeking
redress for historical grievances. In the 2013 census, there were approximately 600,000 people in New Zealand identifying as Māori, making up roughly 15 per cent of the national population.