Treaty of Waitangi 1840On the 6th of February 1840, the treaty of Waitangi was signed in the Bay of Islands. The treaty essentially was an agreement between the Maori and the Pakeha on British sovereignty of New Zealand. As this treaty is a founding document of New Zealand, it has always been very significant to the New Zealanders. However, there are numerous issues raised around its interpretation and meaning. There was a misunderstanding of the treaty between the Maori and the Pakeha due to the its different versions in languages having different meanings. As an outcome, there are historians’ contesting views existing on the causes, consequences, significance and explanation of the treaty of waitangi; it is a complex matter.
People’s view revised on the treaty as time passed, including the time it was signed, in the late 19th century and in the early 21st century.Causes of the treatyThe British – why did they decide to write the treaty?The British were the ones who were leading the formation of the treaty. British decided that they needed a treaty due to the nature of increasing pressures and contacts between Maori and the Pakeha. In 1830s, New Zealand was a Maori-controlled, independent country, however, was also New South Wales’ penal colony. This relationship between New Zealand and Britain was building up positively, expanding trades. But sometimes physical conflicts occurred, and it was difficult for the British government to control any problematic British residents in New Zealand. For this reason, many European immigrants, not just British immigrants, requested the British to intervene and take sovereignty over New Zealand. A London based New Zealand company’s plan affected the British decision to intervene and sign a treaty with the Maori too.
They had an adamant plan on sending British to settle in New Zealand. In 1839, the company was ready to buy a vast amount of land in New Zealand and send hundreds of British settlers to New Zealand. This worked as a catalyst for the British to intervene and sign the treaty. In the same year, the governor of the New South Wales George Gipps, advised William Hobson–the Newly appointed lieutenant governor of yet non-existent British part of New Zealand–to draft the treaty with the Maori, negotiating for the sovereignty of New Zealand.
The Maori – why did they sign the treaty?The general explanation of the reason why Maori signed the treaty is to stop the conflicts and trade more. About Maori chiefs signed the treaty and almost all of them signed the Maori version. Most of them thought the treaty would help them expand trades between the Maori and the Pakeha, give them control over the sales of their lands to Europeans, and would stop conflicts between among the tribes.
However, some of the more recent sources suggests that these were not the reasons why many chiefs signed the treaty. In a Maori historical writer Ranginui Walker’s book Ka Whawhai Tonu Matou: Struggle Without End, it describes the scene of signing the treaty, which contains questionable moments. When William Hobson first announced he would take signatures, none of the chiefs moved to sign, in fact, many of them looked like they did not really understand the treaty.
Hobson tried to avoid legal responsibilities by saying it’s not his fault even if the chiefs did not understand the content of the treaty as Henry William read out the Maori version of the treaty. One of the highly influential rangatira Hone Heke explained this situation by saying “the native mind could not comprehend these things.” This shows how the treaty was written without really considering Maori’s point of view, including their culture and situation at the time.
What is also suspicious is that every chief who signed the treaty were rewarded with two blankets and tobacco, which almost worked as bribes to the tribes. A rangatira Iwikau thought he made the best decision as he secured two blankets by just putting his signature on a piece of paper. This shows how the Maori might have signed the treaty without any “free and intellectual consent.” They signed the treaties, without really agreeing it to what it said. Another suspicion about the treaty is that the Maori version and the English version of the treaty have completely different meanings. In the Maori version the treaty said the chiefs are giving the British only ‘te Kawanatanga katoa–the governance over land,’ and are guaranteed ‘te tino rangatiratanga–the chieftainship’ over everything including lands, villages, and treasured things. However, in the English version of the treaty it stated the chiefs are giving ‘all the rights and powers of sovereignty,’ and the Maori can only keep exclusive and undisturbed possession of only their lands, estates, forests, fisheries, and other properties.’ The Maori signed the treaty because they thought they were guaranteed all their powers and rights, whereas in reality, something completely opposite was happening.
If many chiefs knew that the English version gave all the powers to the British, the chiefs wouldn’t have signed the treaty. Chiefs like Rewa, Tareha, and Kawiti said in their speeches: “We chiefs are the rulers and we won’t be ruled,” and “The Maori people don’t want a governor!” This shows how Maori were manipulated into the signing of the treaty with material rewards and concealed real meanings of the treaty. The treaty was designed so that the Maori agrees to something that they would not consent to.The Incident – the signing On the 6th of February 1840, about 40 chiefs signed the treaty. In the process, a French bishop requested the freedom of all religions for the new colony, which Hobson allowed.
After this day, Hobson held several more meetings around New Zealand including Hokianga and Waimate North, gathering more signatures. Then Hobson reported to the British government that the treaty was successful. He still had to continue his journey to gather more signatures around more parts of New Zealand, but he felt ill. Instead, two army officers carried around the handwritten Maori version of the treaty around the country for several months. At the end, more than 500 chiefs signed the treaty. 39 chiefs from the Waikato Heads and Manukau Harbour signed the English version, and rest of the chiefs signed the Maori version. European witnesses, depending on which part of New Zealand, also had to sign the treaty. While the treaty was going around the country, the newly arrived settlers, without any permission from the British government, started their own government in NEw Zealand.
William Hobson took a quick action as the Lieutenant Government, claimed authorized British sovereignty over the whole country. This took place in May 1840.ConsequencesColonial officials focused on following the English version of the treaty and limited the chiefs’ traditional authorities, saying that it conflicted with the Crown authority.
They also ignored number of chiefs who did not agree to signing the treaty, placing all Maori under the Crown authority. This eventually lead to conflicts between the Maori and the Pakeha. Numerous battles followed including violence at Wairau in 1843, Northland war in 1845, In 1854, the British setted up the first colonial parliament, in order for them to gain more power and authority, leaving out Maori from all kinds of political decisions which are at national level. Many settlers came flooding in, with the eagerness to earn the Maori land–this shocked and threatened Maori.
It made the feel like as if they were losing control over their own affairs. This started the Maori King movement. Chiefs all around the land came to vote and appointed P?tatau Te Wherowhero as the new Maori King. The next king was his son, T?whiao who lead the Maori tribes during the difficult time of Invasion of Waikato in 1863 to 1864. The movement believed in the coexistence of the British Queen and the Maori King, however, the British government tried to destroy this movement, as it collided with the Crown authority.In the 1880s, Maori tried out more peaceful ways to response to the treaty.
They started looking closely at the treaty, to solve problems. They debated the treaty, helding meetings from 1879 to early 1880s. They drafted hundreds of petitions about the imbalance of powers between Maori and the Pakeha and sent them to the British government.
The activity of sending the petition continued till 1924. In 1868, finally first four Maori members could be represented in the Parliament. They could now have greater authority over Maori issues. They drafted bills about the treaty to give Maori more power, but the bills were voted down by other Pakeha MPs. In 1892, the Maori setted up their own parliament, Te Kotahitanga o te Tiriti o Waitangi which means the union of the Treaty of Waitangi.
However, the politicians still ignored this parliament. In the 20th century there were progresses. Treaty of Waitangi used no legal powers unless they were directly incorporated into parts of law. But in 1975, the parliament passed the Treaty of Waitangi act 1975, in the hope that it will improve the relationship between the Maori and the Pakeha. This also established the Waitangi Tribunal. Waitangi Tribunal did not have much influence at the time it was established. However in 1985 their activity and membership expanded, and they could do research, hearings and report writing.Significance At the time it was signedIn 1840, the document served its purpose to the British government.
The treaty allowed William Hobson to fully claim the British sovereignty over the whole of New Zealand. A New Zealand historian Michael King argues that “Hobson would have been utterly unable to govern the country, with a mere £4000, 39 officials and eleven ‘alcoholic’ New South Wales police troopers, had Maori not given their consent.” It is debatable whether the treaty meant more at the time; however, it was significant to New Zealand at the time as it allowed the British government to start their “business of governing.”Late 19th CenturyThere used to be very little understanding among the British at the time about the fact that Maori might feel the treaty had been dishonoured by the British crown.
British sometimes all together ignored the treaty depending on the situation. The actual content of the treaty might not have been significant or influential in politics and people’s lives at the time, but the Maori protests and battles that were caused by the treaty heavily affected the country. It later on led to Britain compromising with Maori in the 20th century. Early 21st Century – todayAfter the Treaty of Waitangi Act 1975 was passed, the role of Waitangi shifted majorly. Each principles were closely looked at, and became part of our laws. The Treaty of Waitangi shaped our laws. After Waitangi was finally recognized as the New Zealand’s national day in 1960, the nation was more aware of the treaty due to its annual celebration. They celebrated treaty of Waitangi as an evidence of New Zealand’s racial relations.
People thought New Zealand’s race relations as one of the World’s best. Controversies and conflicts about the treaty were forgotten. Trying to forget the history was basically explains the attitude of Pakeha towards the Treaty of Waitangi.Nowadays, everyone in New Zealand is remembering, and celebrating the treaty of Waitangi–both positive and negative aspects of it.
A modern New Zealand politician said that the treaty made us all united, as New Zealanders. The treaty tied the Pakeha and Maori into a ‘partnership’ based off trust and good faith. The treaty is what makes New Zealand New Zealand nowadays. It has set guidance to New Zealand for a multicultural future. As a nation, we celebrate the 6th of February as Waitangi Day every year, having it as a public holiday. However, a NZ herald reporter says that for most of us, we just treat it as another public holiday where we can wash our cars or have a nice break. It is said that we treat such memorable day like this.
However, Annette Skyes, the Mana Party leader of Rotorua says that the Generation Y, the millennials, are most knowledgeable about the treaty. This is due to our effort of educating our younger generation, by including the Treaty of Waitangi in the school curriculum. As the time passes, New Zealanders are recognizing the significance of the treaty more and more.
The Treaty of Waitangi has shaped New Zealand into what it is nowadays, socially, economically and politically.