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Iwi (pronounced ee-wee) form the largest everyday social units in Māori Society. In pre-European times, Iwi was synonymous with nationality; it described fully the people to whom a person belonged and owed allegiance. With the development of the country now called New Zealand, a much bigger social unit, the meaning became analogous to that of tribe or clan.

Many iwi can cluster into super-groups based on genealogical tradition, known as waka (literally: "canoes", with reference to migration legends).

Each Iwi can be divided into a number of Hapu (or sub-tribes). (For example, the Ngati Whatua Iwi consists of the hapu: Te Uri O Hau, Te Roroa, Te Taou and Ngati Whatua.)

Table of contents
1 Well-known Iwi groups
2 Traditional power
3 Modern Day
4 Challenge from Urban Māori
5 Traditional weight
6 External links

Well-known Iwi groups

Prominent Iwi include: Note that each Iwi has its own territory, and that no two Iwi have overlapping territories.

Traditional power

Modern Day

Contrary to what one might expect, most Iwi groups do still exist and have significant political power, which they exercise to recover land and other assets taken from them over the last 150 years. A notable example of this trend is the recent settlement between the New Zealand government and the Ngāi Tahu, compensating that Iwi for the loss of rights guaranteed in the Treaty of Waitangi of 1840. Iwi affairs have a very real impact on New Zealand politics and society. A current claim by some iwi that they own the seabed and foreshore in their areas has polarised public opinion.

Challenge from Urban Māori

In recent years, "Urban Māori" have challenged the established tribal (iwi-based) Māori power base. Urban Māori form groups 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 "iwi" literally means "bones". Returning home after travelling or living elsewhere is known as "going back to the bones", literally to where the ancestors are buried.

External links