In 1840, over 500 Maori leaders put their names to a significant new document: Te Tiriti o Waitangi or the Treaty of Waitangi. Through their signatures, moko or marks, they were making an agreement with the British Crown, represented by Consul and Lieutenant-Governor William Hobson. At stake was the sovereignty of the country, the governance of the land. The meanings of the Treaty of Waitangi have been debated – and disputed – ever since.
The text in te reo Maori differs in critical ways from the text in English. The outcome, as iwi and hapu around the country quickly learned, was a threat to their rangatiratanga, or sovereignty. Today, the Treaty is recognised as a founding document for New Zealand, one that frames discussion about the country’s past, present and future. Its impact is seen most powerfully in the Waitangi Tribunal, established in 1975 to investigate Maori claims of Crown breaches and neglect of the Treaty agreements, with ensuing settlements.
The history of this agreement between two peoples made nearly 200 years ago is a remarkable one, told here in rich and compelling detail. The nine sheets of the Treaty are shown, with a vivid account of their signing. Names, iwi and hapu are given for the Treaty signatories, along with information about their lives. Drawing on new research, this is a dynamic story about a treaty, its times and the people who made it.