is sometimes described as "the basic political unit within Maori society".
A named division of a Māori iwi
In New Zealand society, iwi form the largest everyday social units in Māori culture. The word iwi means "'peoples' or 'nations'. In "the work of European writers which treat iwi and hapū as parts of a hierarchical structure", it has been used to mean "tribe" , or confederation of tribes,...
A tribe, viewed historically or developmentally, consists of a social group existing before the development of, or outside of, states.Many anthropologists use the term tribal society to refer to societies organized largely on the basis of kinship, especially corporate descent groups .Some theorists...
), membership is determined by genealogical descent; a hapū is made up of a number of whānau
Whānau , is a Māori-language word for extended family, now increasingly entering New Zealand English, particularly in official publications.In Māori society, the whānau is also a political unit, below the level of hapū and iwi, and the word itself also has other meanings: as a verb meaning to give...
(extended family) groups. Generally hapū range in size from 150-200 although there is no upper limit. A Maori person can belong or have links to many different hapū.
Before the arrival of Europeans the normal day to day operating group seems to have been the smaller whānau (extended family). By the 1820s Maori had learnt the benefit of working in larger groups especially when it came to trading with ships. The larger hapū could work more effectively to produce surplus flax, potatoes, smoked heads and pigs in exchange for blankets, tobacco, axes and trade muskets. In warfare the hapū was the standard grouping for warriors during the musket war period. Hapū would united politically under their own chief, to form much larger armies up to several thousand warriors, although it was common for hapū to retain independence within the larger group.
The literal meaning of the word is "pregnant" which is a metaphor for the genealogical connection that unites the members of the hapū.