The ocean has always been the dominant force for the Maori people who traveled huge distances in their long canoes and lived on the bounty of the tropical waters. They had a great respect for the creatures on the sea and in particular dolphins and whales. The whale with its great size and obvious intelligence played an important part in the culture of the Maori people. They were often represented as an example of family love with mother and calf always side by side and touching at every opportunity.
Beached whales were treasured as gifts from the gods. They were particularly prized for the bone which after several years of curing was used to carve ornate jewelry and art works, often passed down for many generations.