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In matters involving financial benefits provided by the government to people of Māori ethnicity, for example scholarships or Waitangi Tribunal settlements, authorities generally require some documentation of ancestry or continuing cultural connection, such as acceptance by others as being of the people, but no minimum "blood" requirement exists as determined by the government.The most current reliable evidence strongly indicates that initial settlement of New Zealand occurred around 1280 CE at the end of the medieval warm period.In 1947, the authorities determined that a man who was five-eighths Māori had improperly voted in the general parliamentary electorate of Raglan.The Maori Affairs Amendment Act 1974 changed the definition, allowing individuals to self-identify as to their cultural identity.

Political redress for historical grievances is also ongoing.In the Māori language, the word māori means "normal", "natural" or "ordinary".In legends and oral traditions, the word distinguished ordinary mortal human beings—tāngata māori—from deities and spirits (wairua); Māori people often use the term tangata whenua (literally, "people of the land") to identify in a way that expresses their relationship with a particular area of land; a tribe may be the tangata whenua in one area, but not in another.Rising tensions over disputed land sales led to conflict in the 1860s.Social upheaval, decades of conflict and epidemics of introduced disease took a devastating toll on the Māori population, which fell dramatically.

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