Publication date (electronic): 30 June 2007
A complexity view of three Maori tribal groups of the South Island of New Zealand and the Moriori of the Chatham Islands
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Indigenous tribal groups can operate as complex adaptive systems. Tribal members are then autonomous agents interacting intensely among themselves and with their environment. Technology, social structure, economics, education, and so on develop over time to help the tribe maintain its fitness within its environment. These developments may be due to chance discoveries, the operation of natural selection, and under certain critical conditions the intense interactions may enable the emergence of higher levels of social complexity. At times when the environment becomes less favorable for human habitation, the means of subsistence regresses to earlier forms, which necessitates a similar regression in the social structure binding the society together. This paper examines the three tribes living in the South Island of New Zealand between 1250 and 1800 ad. The three tribes were named Waitaha, Ngati Mamoe, and Kaitahu. They had to cope with changes in climate, food, and resources, as well as intra- and inter-tribal threats. Particularly during the latter stages, there was intense competition for the more productive land and sea areas. On the Chatham Islands, some 800 kilometers to the East of the South Island, the Moriori people formed their own distinctive culture, which will also be examined. The Moriori, who descended from the Maori people of New Zealand, lived in an even more harsh and isolated environment than the Maori, which significantly shaped their distinctive culture.
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