Te Tiriti o Waitangi

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To be honest, I feel I have quite a reasonable understanding of NZ history! Having studied many aspects of it throughout my year in yr.13 history, my historical knowledge is most certainly research based. We covered all areas from early settlement, the Treaty of Waitangi, Womens rights, Whaling, and the musket/Maori wars (from what I can recall off the top of my head). The information I gathered throughout the course of that year came from many interesting sources, many, many a text book was used, seminars were attended, and museums and archive facilities were visited.

How do I feel about the treaty?

Again, if I’m to be completely honest, the treaty doesn’t really stir any emotions deep within me (or not so deep for that matter). However I can fully respect the importance of the treaty and the suffering and hardships that came with it and its misunderstandings. I don’t totally agree with everything that the settlers/English did, but I believe it was bound to happen at some stage, by some nationality. And this might be me sounding completely ignorant and unaware, but we aren’t too bad off for it now, are we?

A significant clause in the treaty.

For me there are two very significant clauses In the Treaty.

The first is Article the first. This article is one in which there were many discrepancies between the English and Maori texts, which lead to major disagreements between the two parties and eventually lead to the New Zealand wars. The key differences between the two are that in the English text, Maori leaders gave the queen “all the rights and powers of sovereignty” over their land. Yet in the Maori text, Maori leaders only gave the queen “te kawanatanga”, the complete government over their land.

The other is Article the second. This article is again one in which there were many inconsistencies between the English and Maori texts, which lead to disagreements between the two parties and again contributed to the New Zealand wars. The biggest difference between the two was that in the English text, Maori yielded to the crown an exclusive right to purchase their land. Whereas in the Maori text of the treaty, Maori agreed to give the crown the right to but land from them should Maori wish to sell it.

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How does New Zealand history fit in with what was happening globally? How could this global perspective help ease tensions in NZ? The UN and the treaty.

Globally, there was a lot taking place at the time of the Treaty of Waitangi. The British Empire was growing and becoming more powerful, through means that weren’t always as civil as the signing of our treaty. In many cases, not only by the British Empire, countries were taken by force and wars broke out around the world. The signing of our treaty was part of the beginning of an Era, one of supposed equality and compromise, rather than outright domination. This Era came about due to anti-slavery organisations which abolished slavery in the British Empire in 1834. This meant that any land being colonised by the British, had to be done so under the agreement of the Native people.

The UN played a huge part in the decision of forming the Treaty. A group called ‘The Aborigines Protection Society’ was formed to protect and improve conditions of Indigenous people throughout the Empire. This society was an international human rights organization whose aim was to protect the legal and religious rights, and the health and well-being of indigenous people. A report made in 1836 shows large amounts of support for this movement and also had a massive impact on British policy in New Zealand.

Oh and just another wee fact I thought was rather interesting! A new study has found that at various times throughout history, the British have invaded almost 90 per cent of the countries around the world. An analysis of the histories of the almost 200 countries in the world found only 22 which have never experienced an invasion by the British.

The Maori/New Zealand wars.

The name The Maori wars originated from the British practice of naming wars after their foe. However ‘The Maori Wars’ is hardly used today as it is argued that the term is divisive, setting up the ‘them and us’ situation. The name also hints at Maori responsibility for the wars, so for that reason I will be referring to them as the more commonly used term, The New Zealand Wars.
The New Zealand wars were a series of armed conflicts that took place from 1845 to 1872 between the New Zealand government and indigenous Maori. The wars began as localised conflicts triggered by tensions over disputed land purchases, but they escalated dramatically from 1860 as the government became convinced it was facing a united Maori resistance to further land sales and a refusal to acknowledge Crown sovereignty. So something which begun as no more than land disputes, turned into a major ‘them vs. us’ situation.

The legacy of the New Zealand Wars continues, but these days the battles are mostly fought in courtrooms and around the negotiation table. Numerous reports by the Waitangi Tribunal have criticised Crown actions during the wars, and also found that the Maori, too, had breached the treaty.

Why is the treaty still relevant today?

So why is the treaty still relevant today? Why can’t we just throw it out and start again? The treaty was never created as a temporary commitment, it was entered into completely in good faith. If any government were to ‘throw it out’ it would be to no avail. The distress and anger caused by past treaty breaches and todays inequalities would not just disappear. Abolishing the treaty would also abolish the right of parliament to exist and make laws, and where would we be then? To finish with this quote by Judge Durie seems appropriate, “…we must not forget that the treaty is not just a bill of rights for Maori…we must remember that if we are the tangata whenua, the original people, then the Pakeha are tangata Tiriti, those who belong to the land by right of that treaty.” The Treaty is also a bill of rights for non-Māori. So when it comes down to it, we are all united in one way, calling this country Home.

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