New Zealand’s Founding Document - The Treaty of Waitangi
New Zealand's Founding Document - The Treaty of Waitangi is an agreement between the British Crown and the Māori people of New Zealand.
Eske
Style
would like you to know that the information given below is intended for a general guide only and should not necessarily be read as a statement of the views or findings of Eske Style.

             


Background

In New Zealand in 1840 there were about 100,000 Māori, and a small number of Europeans - mostly whalers, sealers and traders - along with missionaries sent to convert Māori to Christianity. Many missionaries supported the "humanitarian" treatment of indigenous peoples and detested what they thought was the immoral and lawless behaviour of many European residents

In August 1839, William Hobson was appointed to negotiate with Māori to cede sovereignty over as much of the country as he saw fit. He drafted the Treaty with James Busby, who was the British Resident in New Zealand and had been given the task of greeting Hobson upon his arrival and helping to draft the Treaty.

In 1835 Busby had drafted the Declaration of the Independence of New Zealand which has been signed by some Māori chiefs. The document was a response to concerns over the lawlessness of British subjects in New Zealand, and a fear that France would declare sovereignty over part of New Zealand. It also arose from a desire in Māori society to establish a form of Māori government. However this only lasted until the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi.
The Treaty of Waitangi

Henry Williams, a missionary, translated the text into Māori, and gave an oral explanation at the initial signing.

Te Tiriti o Waitangi (The Treaty of Waitangi) was signed on 6 February 1840 at Waitangi in the Bay of Islands of New Zealand.
The Treaty was signed by representatives of the British Crown, the chiefs of the Confederation of the United Tribes of New Zealand, and other Māori tribal leaders.
Hobson headed the British signatories. Of the 40 or so Māori chiefs, the Nga Puhi Rangatira (chief) Hone Heke was the first to sign the treaty.
To enhance the authority of the treaty eight further copies were made and then sent around the country to gather additional signatures:
the Manukau-Kawhia copy, the Waikato-Manukau copy, the Bay of Plenty copy, the Herald-Bunbury copy, the East Coast copy and the Printed copy. Around 50 meetings were held from February to September 1840 to discuss and sign the copies, and a further 500 signatures were added to the treaty. Several chiefs, equally, declined to sign.
Copy of the Treaty of Waitangi displayed the Waitangi Treaty Grounds
Tiriti O Waitangi
Treaty of Waitangi
Effect of the Treaty

Significantly, the English and Māori versions are not identical. This has caused difficulty in interpreting the Treaty.

Māori beliefs and attitudes towards ownership of land were not the same as the British, and this was to cause problems later. Māori chiefs saw themselves as ‘kaitiaki’ or guardians of the land, and would traditionally grant permission for the land to be used for a time for particular purpose. It is possible that some may have believed that they were selling permission to use the land, rather than selling the land itself.

The immediate effect of the Treaty was to prevent the sale of Māori land to anyone other than the Crown. Despite the protection offered in the Treaty, Māori lost considerable amount of land through the 19th and 20th centuries. The manner in which the land was lost was often questionable, and led to considerable protest from Māori. This eventually, led to the Land Wars which ended with the confiscation of a large part of the Waikato and Taranaki.
Meaning and Interpretation

The Treaty itself is short, consisting of only three articles.
The first article:

In the English text of the Treaty, Māori leaders grant the Queen ‘all the rights and powers of sovereignty’ over their land.
In the Maori text of the Treaty, Māori leaders gave the Queen ‘te kawanatanga katoa’ – the complete governance or government over their land.
The second article:

In the English text of the Treaty, Māori leaders and people, collectively and individually, were confirmed and guaranteed 'exclusive and undisturbed possession of their lands and estates, forests, fisheries and other properties'. Furthermore, the chiefs, agreed to "yield to Her Majesty the exclusive right of Pre-emption" over "such lands as the proprietors there of may be disposed to alienate".
In the Māori text of the Treaty, Māori were guaranteed "te tino rangatiratanga" – which might be interpreted as the exercise of chieftainship,"tino" meaning full or entire and "rangatira" meaning a chief, over their lands ("whenua), villages ("kainga", and all property or treasures ("taonga katoa").
Māori also agreed to give the Crown the right to buy land from them should Māori wish to sell.
The third article:

By the Māori text, the Crown gave an assurance that Māori would have the Queen's protection and all rights - "tikanga" - accorded British Subjects. This appears to be an accurate translation of the English.


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