The largest of the two islands, New Zealand’s South Island is home to beautiful landscapes, fascinating sightseeing opportunities, and rich culture. The history of the island, from early Maori settlement to the 21st century is vibrant is interesting.
Thought to be the earliest Maori inhabitants on the South Island, the Waitaha tribe landed in Whakatu, modern-day Nelson Bay. The tribe adjusted the genealogy of the land to suit their needs. The next tribe to move to the South Island was the Ngati Mamoe in the 16th century. They took over the Waitaha with war and marriages and reigned until the 18th century when the northern tribe Ngai Tahu conquered the South Island mostly through strategic marriages and tribal alliances.
Other tribes challenged the rule over the years with bloody conquests and conflicts along both coasts, until 1839 when a peace agreement was reached due to the marriage of two top families in significant tribes.
A famous Dutch explorer, Abel Tasman, was the first European settler to discover the South Island of New Zealand in 1642. He landed in Golden Bay and immediately came into conflict with the Maori before sailing to Tonga. Tasman was the first explorer to complete a map of New Zealand, and named it “Staten Landt”. Later it was renamed to “Nieuw Zeeland”, honouring Zeeland, a Dutch province).
Over a century later in approximately 1769, James Cook landed on the island and anglicised the name, recording it as “New Zealand”. The first official European settlement on the South Island was not until 1823 and was called “Bluff” by James Spencer. Shortly after, the French arrived in New Zealand, led by the explorer James Dumont d’Urville. Only one significant clash was recorded between the British and the Maori in 1843; otherwise, the islands remained relatively peaceful.
The South Island is currently split into 23 authorities, and six regions: the Marlborough, Nelson, the West Coast, Canterbury, Southland and the Tasman.