|The Maori Land Court was originally established as the Native Land Court under the Native Land Act 1865. It has been called the Maori Land Court since 1954.
The initial role of the Native Land Court was to define the land rights of Maori people under Maori custom and to translate those rights or customary titles into land titles recognisable under European law.
Traditional Maori land rights involved communal ownership of land. The hapu (sub tribe) or iwi (tribe) had to prove their traditional rights to land on the basis of occupation, conquest, or ancestry. The gifting of land was also taken into account. Occupation was symbolised by the term 'ahi kaa' meaning 'to keep the home fires burning'. This meant that the hapu had to establish their genealogical connections as well as their physical and emotional ties to a piece of land. All this information was recorded in the Court's minute books.|