Iwi (M?ori pronunciation: ['iwi]) are the largest social units in Aotearoa (New Zealand) M?ori society. The M?ori-language word iwi means "people" or "nation", and is often translated as "tribe", or "a confederation of tribes". The word is both singular and plural in the M?ori language. M?ori use the word rohe to describe the territory or boundaries of iwi.
Iwi groups trace their ancestry to the original Polynesian migrants who, according to tradition, arrived from Hawaiki. Some iwi cluster into larger groupings that are based on whakapapa (genealogical tradition) and known as waka (literally "canoes", with reference to the original migration voyages). These super-groupings generally serve symbolic rather than practical functions. In pre-European times, most M?ori were allied to relatively small groups in the form of hap? ("sub-tribes") and wh?nau ("family"). Each iwi contains a number of hap?; among the hap? of the Ng?ti Wh?tua iwi, for example, are Te Uri-o-Hau, Te Roroa, Te Tao?, and Ng?ti Wh?tua-o-?r?kei.
In modern-day New Zealand, iwi can exercise significant political power in the recovery and management of land and of other assets. (Note for example the 1997 Treaty of Waitangi settlement between the New Zealand Government and Ng?i Tahu, compensating that iwi for various losses of the rights guaranteed under the Treaty of Waitangi of 1840.) Iwi affairs can have a real impact on New Zealand politics and society. A 2004 attempt by some iwi to test in court their ownership of the seabed and foreshore areas polarised public opinion (see New Zealand foreshore and seabed controversy).
In M?ori and in many other Polynesian languages, iwi literally means "bone". M?ori may refer to returning home after travelling or living elsewhere as "going back to the bones" -- literally to the burial-areas of the ancestors. M?ori author Keri Hulme's novel The Bone People (1985) has a title linked directly to the dual meaning of bone and "tribal people".
Many iwi names begin with Ng?ti or with Ng?i (from ng? ?ti and ng? ai respectively, both meaning roughly "the offspring of"). Ng?ti has become a productive morpheme in New Zealand English to refer to groups of people: examples are Ng?ti P?keh? (P?keh? as a group), Ng?ti Poneke (M?ori who have migrated to the Wellington region), and Ng?ti R?nana (M?ori living in London). Ng?ti T?matauenga ("Tribe of T?matauenga", the god of war) is the official M?ori-language name of the New Zealand Army, and Ng? Opango ("Black Tribe") is a M?ori-language name for the All Blacks.
Each iwi has a generally recognised territory (rohe), but many of these overlap, sometimes completely. This has added a layer of complication to the long-running discussions and court cases about how to resolve historical Treaty claims. The length of coastline emerged as one factor in the final (2004) legislation to allocate fishing-rights in settlement of claims relating to commercial fisheries.
Iwi can become a prospective vehicle for ideas and ideals of self-determination and/or tino rangatiratanga. Thus does the M?ori Party mention in the preamble of its Constitution "the dreams and aspirations of tangata whenua to achieve self-determination for wh?nau, hap? and iwi within their own land". Some T?hoe envisage self-determination in specifically iwi-oriented terms.
Increasing urbanisation of M?ori has led to a situation where a significant percentage do not identify with any particular iwi. The following extract from a 2000 High Court of New Zealand judgment (discussing the process of settling fishing rights) illustrates some of the issues:
... 81 percent of M?ori now live in urban areas, at least one-third live outside their tribal influence, more than one-quarter do not know their iwi or for some reason do not choose to affiliate with it, at least 70 percent live outside the traditional tribal territory and these will have difficulties, which in many cases will be severe, in both relating to their tribal heritage and in accessing benefits from the settlement. It is also said that many M?ori reject tribal affiliation because of a working class unemployed attitude, defiance and frustration. Related but less important factors, are that a hapu may belong to more than one iwi, a particular hapu may have belonged to different iwi at different times, the tension caused by the social and economic power moving from the iwi down rather than from the hapu up, and the fact that many iwi do not recognise spouses and adoptees who do not have kinship links.
In the 2006 census, 16 per cent of the 643,977 people who claimed M?ori ancestry did not know their iwi. Another 11 per cent did not state their iwi, or stated only a general geographic region, or merely gave a waka name. Initiatives like the Iwi Helpline are trying to make it easier for people to identify their iwi, and the proportion who "don't know" dropped relative to previous censuses.
Some established pan-tribal organisations may[according to whom?] exert influence across iwi divisions. The R?tana Church, for example, operates across iwi divisions, and the M?ori King Movement, though principally congregated around Waikato/Tainui, aims to transcend some iwi functions in a wider grouping.
Many iwi operate or are affiliated with media organisations. Most of these belong to Te Whakaruruhau o Nga Reo Irirangi M?ori (the National M?ori Radio Network), a group of radio stations which receive contestable Government funding from Te M?ngai P?ho (the M?ori Broadcast Funding Agency) to operate on behalf of iwi and hap?. Under their funding agreement, the stations must produce programmes in the local M?ori language and actively promote local M?ori culture.
A two-year Massey University survey of 30,000 people published in 2003 indicated 50 per cent of M?ori in National M?ori Radio Network broadcast areas listened to an iwi station. An Auckland University of Technology study in 2009 suggested the audience of iwi radio stations would increase as the growing New Zealand M?ori population tried to keep a connection to their culture, family history, spirituality, community, language and iwi.
The Victoria University of Wellington Te Reo M?ori Society campaigned for M?ori radio, helping to set up Te Reo o Poneke, the first M?ori-owned radio operation, using airtime on Wellington student-radio station Radio Active in 1983. Twenty-one iwi radio stations were set up between 1989 and 1994, receiving Government funding in accordance with a Treaty of Waitangi claim. This group of radio stations formed various networks, becoming Te Whakaruruhau o Nga Reo Irirangi M?ori.
The Maori Party is born of the dreams and aspirations of tangata whenua to achieve self-determination for wh?nau, hap? and iwi within their own land; to speak with a strong, independent and united voice; and to live according to kaupapa handed down by our ancestors. The vision for the Maori Party will be based on these aspirations [...]
Calls from Maori activist Tame Iti for self-government arrangements for the Tuhoe tribe similar to those Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have in the UK have been backed by a leader likely to negotiate the tribe's Treaty settlement. ... While other iwi have focused on economic transfer of assets as a way of achieving tino rangatiratanga or self-determination, Tuhoe have spelled out their intention to negotiate constitutional issues.