Year 8 - Lesson 6

Curriculum level:
Programme focus:
Why a Treaty?
Length of lesson:
45 – 90 minutes

Focus learning areas

  • Muskets

Achievement objectives

Students will gain knowledge, skills, and experience to:

  • Understand how exploration and innovation create opportunities and challenges for people, places, and environments.
  • Understand that events have causes and effects.

Learning Outcomes

This programme will provide students with opportunities to:

  • Compare traditional Māori weapons and muskets.
  • Recognise the advantages and disadvantages of both weapons.
  • Investigate the consequences that Muskets had on New Zealand.

Suggested activities


Review the items that Māori received from the traders.

What item belonging to Europeans do you think was one of the most popular? (Muskets.)

Traditional Māori weapons versus muskets

Show the class pictures of traditional Māori weapons such as taiaha (fighting staff) and mere (hand club).

Show the class images of an 1800 musket.

Discuss the difference between the two weapons (traditional Māori weapons were most lethal when used in close, hand-to-hand combat; muskets were good for long range).

An image that shows both can be found at:āori-and-the-british/war-migration-and-change/

Quick role play

Split the group into two tribes, and ask each tribe to elect a chief and choose a tribal name.

Ask the chief of each group to demonstrate how close they would need to be to each other if they wanted to fight using a traditional Māori weapon, such as the mere (hand club), taiaha (fighting staff), tao or huata (spear), and the possible outcomes.

(Images of traditional Māori weapons can be seen on Panel 4, Section 1 – ‘War, migration and change’).

Place the chiefs back with their tribes, and, this time, you act as a trader. Deal with only one of the tribes, and trade some natural resources for some muskets.

This time, ask each chief how close they need to be to each other, and discuss the advantages/disadvantages of the musket.

You could also split up the disadvantaged tribe (without muskets) into those who were killed, those who were enslaved, and those who managed to escape.

*At this point, you may want to explain about cannibalism, which the chief could do in order to 9a) take away the mana (status) of his enemy, or (b) to consume the power of the enemy, for example if the enemy was smart, then the chief would eat his brain.

It’s important the students understand that Māori didn’t eat each other purely because they were hungry, and that cannibalism existed historically in a number of other cultures.

From 1820, the musket had a devastating effect on the Māori population, estimates show that in a 10 year period about 20000 died. Tribal boundaries also changed through tribes migrating, assimilating or being wiped out completely.

Cd Rom/ Website

  • Why a Treaty?
  • Muskets

Supporting information