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Maori Meeting House, Ruatepupuke II

Maori Meeting House, Ruatepupuke II - Field Museum of Natural History
Maori Meeting House, Ruatepupuke II

The Maori Meeting House, Ruatepupuke II was built by the New Zeland Maori community at Tokomaru Bay in 1881. They named it Ruatepupuke II after their renowned ancestor who according to legend, brought the art of carving to the world.

The large mask carved and placed on the gable roof summit represents Ruatepupuke. Ruatepupuke is said to have established the tradition of carved meeting houses on the East Coast of New Zealand.

Māori Meeting Houses are often named after ancestors and considered to embody that person. The house is seen as an outstretched body and can be addressed like a living being.

This Māori Meeting House or wharenui is one of only three 19th-century carved meeting houses outside of New Zealand.

The house and the surrounding area around the house or marae serve as a spiritual outpost for sharing Maori culture and history. 

A marae is a communal or sacred place that serves religious and social purposes in Polynesian societies. In the Māori societies of New Zealand, the marae is still a vital part of everyday life.

Maori Meeting House

Maori Meeting House or “big house” is a communal house of the Māori people of New Zealand, generally situated at the focal point of a marae.

The houses are often carved inside and out with stylized images of the tribe’s ancestors, with the style used for the carvings varying from tribe to tribe.

The houses always have names, sometimes the name of a famous ancestor or sometimes a figure from Māori mythology.

While a meeting house is considered sacred, it is not a church or house of worship, but religious rituals may take place in front of or inside a meeting house.

Māori People

The Māori are the indigenous people of New Zealand. Māori originated with settlers from eastern Polynesia, who arrived in New Zealand in several waves of canoe voyages some time between 1250 and 1300.

Over several centuries in isolation, the Polynesian settlers developed a unique culture, with their own language, mythology, crafts and performing arts.

Early Māori formed tribal groups based on eastern Polynesian social customs and organization. Horticulture flourished however later, with population pressure, a prominent warrior culture emerged.

The arrival of Europeans to New Zealand, starting in the 17th century, brought enormous changes to the Māori way of life.

Māori people gradually adopted many aspects of Western society and culture. Initial relations between Māori and Europeans were amicable, and with the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, the two cultures coexisted as part of a new British colony.

However, rising tensions over disputed lands led to conflict in the 1860s. Social upheaval, decades of conflict, and epidemics of newly introduced diseases took a devastating toll on the Māori population, which fell dramatically.

By the start of the 20th century, the Māori population had begun to recover, and efforts have been made to increase their standing in wider New Zealand society and to achieve social justice.

Traditional Māori culture has enjoyed a significant revival, which was further bolstered by a Māori protest movement that emerged in the 1960s.

Maori Meeting House, Ruatepupuke II - Field Museum of Natural History - by Joy of Museums - 1

Maori Meeting House, Ruatepupuke II

  • Exhibit:               Maori Meeting House, Ruatepupuke II
  • Built                   1881
  • Culture:              Maori
  • Location:            Tokomaru Bay, New Zealand  community at  in
  • Museum:            Field Museum of Natural History

What is a Maori Meeting House?

The secrets of Māori woodcarving

Original Maori Haka Dance

Maori Meeting House Construction Sequence

Explore the Field Museum of Natural History

Maori All Blacks welcomed by Ruatepupuke whanau

Explore Chicago’s Museums

Māori-American heritage

Maori Proverb and Quotations


“Many stars cannot be concealed by a small cloud.”


“Never spend time with people who don’t respect you.”


“As an old net withers, another is remade.”


“The leader at the front and the workers behind the scenes.”


“There is food at the end of my hands.”


“Marry a man with calloused hands.”


“An active person will remain healthy, while a lazy one will become sick.”


“Like a dog follows his nose, man will find an opportunity.”


“Without foresight or vision, the people will be lost.”


“A house full of people is a house full of different points of view.”


“The block of wood should not dictate to the carver.”


“The more you ask how much longer it will take, the longer the journey seems.”


Traditional Maori Haka Performance for March on Washington


“As man disappears from sight, the land remains.”
– Māori Proverb


Photo Credit: JOM

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