The Legal Māori Resource Hub

Explore how Māori language has been used in legal contexts over nearly two centuries.

New Zealand’s legal history is bilingual. From the earliest missionary-led translations of the New Testament in the early nineteenth century, the Māori language has been used to communicate Western legal ideas. 

These resources let you explore the specific use of thousands of Māori terms in historical context. You can also examine the use of Māori language in law-related texts.

Find out more about the resources below, or start a quick search in the above search box. 

Dictionary of Māori Legal Terms

Use this bilingual dictionary to find Māori terms that describe Western legal ideas and law-related vocabulary. Find referenced examples of these terms in use. 

The Legal Maori Corpus

Search the corpus—a digitised collection of thousands of pages of legal and law-related texts in the Māori language that span 1829 to 2009.

Corpus Browser

Make an advanced search of the Legal Māori Corpus using the Corpus Browser. Tailor your search to your area of interest with a variety of filters.  

 

Recommended reading

He Papakupu Reo Ture: A Dictionary of Māori Legal Terms

— Māmari Stephens and Mary Boyce (LexisNexis 2013)

This is the first and only dictionary of Māori legal terms in New Zealand. New Zealand’s legal history is bilingual. From the earliest missionary-led translations of the New Testament in the early nineteenth century, the Māori language has been used to communicate Western legal ideas. Nearly two centuries later there now exists a significant legal vocabulary in Māori that has much to teach scholars of law and language in New Zealand about the intersection between Māori and Pākehā legal thinking and expression. This dictionary captures something of that unique intersection, drawing its entries and usage examples from the Legal Māori Corpus, a digitised collection of thousands of pages of legal and law-related texts in the Māori language dating from between 1828 and 2009. 

Te Mātāpunenga: A Compendium of References to the Concepts and Institutions of Māori Customary Law

— Richard Benton, Alex Frame, Paul Meredith (Victoria University Press 2013)

 

For New Zealand to have a legal system that reflects the best of the values and principles of its two major component cultures, the historical legal practices of both need to be understood.In comparison with the British legal system upon which New Zealand’s system is based, information about the nature and status of Māori customary law has been sparsely documented. To address this imbalance, the research institute Te Mātāhauariki has assembled a collection of references to customary Māori legal concepts and institutions from an extensive range of sources. Te Mātāpunenga is the result.