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Over the centuries that followed, these settlers developed a distinct culture now known as Māori.
The population was divided into iwi (tribes) and hapū (subtribes) who would sometimes cooperate, sometimes compete and sometimes fight against each other.
Reflecting this, New Zealand's culture is mainly derived from Māori and early British settlers, with recent broadening arising from increased immigration.
The official languages are English, Māori, and New Zealand Sign Language, with English being very dominant.
During its long period of isolation, New Zealand developed a distinct biodiversity of animal, fungal, and plant life.
He wrote, "it is possible that this land joins to the Staten Land but it is uncertain", Māori had several traditional names for the two main islands, including Te Ika-a-Māui (the fish of Māui) for the North Island and Te Waipounamu (the waters of greenstone) or Te Waka o Aoraki (the canoe of Aoraki) for the South Island.
In 1841, New Zealand became a colony within the British Empire and in 1907 it became a dominion; it gained full statutory independence in 1947 and the British monarch remained the head of state.
Today, the majority of New Zealand's population of 4.9 million is of European descent; the indigenous Māori are the largest minority, followed by Asians and Pacific Islanders.
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) is a sovereign island country in the southwestern Pacific Ocean.