Nineteenth-century Maori society responded to colonization in creative, flexible, and dynamic ways. This is seen clearly in the way in which mechanisms of tribal self-government were reinvented, mixing indigenous with exotic influences to establish new and much stronger bodies better suited to cope with the challenges confronting Maori in the new environment. Increasing Maori anxiety to prevent uncontrolled land alienation and the complete subservience to European society that many Maori feared saw runanga based on older tribal assemblies radically over-hauled to ensure ongoing communal control, while komiti, at first based on European models but increasingly indigenized over time, also became important institutions of governance. Occasional Crown attempts to co-opt such institutions for its own ends were largely unsuccessful. Runanga and komiti were instead, although ultimately unable to stem the tide of land alienation, of vital importance in ensuring the survival of the Maori as a distinct people.

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