Rod's Ramblings: The Treaty of Waitangi

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'Rod's Ramblings' are broadcast in New Zealand by Compass FM 104.9, 'The Voices of North Canterbury', a community effort. Rod has been kind enough to share some of his broadcast material with us here at h2g2.

Rod's Ramblings: The Treaty of Waitangi

Treaty of Waitangi from NZ Archives

This Introduction is for the benefit of those among you who, like me, know little about the Treaty of Waitangi.

It is just that – an introduction.

Very brief, it is and therefore liable perhaps, to be a little inaccurate in places. You might like to reward yourself and read more – get a book, borrow one from the library or search the web – there's lots on the web.

We'll start our little story with the Polynesian diaspora over the Pacific ocean, which is said to have been the greatest migration on earth.

Why? We can only exercise our imaginations and guess at what circumstances would make a people leave their homeland (seemingly, their original homeland was what is now Taiwan).

It started... Oh, when? Let's say somewhere in the first millennium – possibly 500, 600...800 AD by our reckoning.

Having got that far, we now skip forward to the phase following their settlement of modern-day Fiji, Tonga and Samoa which would have been around, oh, say, 900 – 1000 AD.

Imagine their journeys, island-hopping across those immense distances, in canoes, albeit ocean-going canoes (imagine the development work that went into them) that can't have been able to carry such a great deal in the way of people, food and accoutrements.

One wonders how many of those voyages actually made it to a new island.

They, who we know as Maori, arrived on New Zealand somewhere around 1,000 years ago. The first known name is that of the explorer Kupe, who named the land Aotearoa – The land of the long white cloud (streaming off the mountains).

It seems likely that there were quite a few, probably many expeditions landing here, in several phases.

Imagine what they must have felt on finding such a land. New Zealand is not a particularly big island on a world scale, but compared with all their previous experience of Pacific islands it must have been... well, Huge.

Over the next several hundred years they developed their culture and their technology – taking things as far as they could be taken in this place that has more in the way of natural resources than their previous landings, making decorations and tools of wood, greenstone (jade) and obsidian. Also, of course, weapons.

Shift attention now to Europe. Dutchman Abel Tasman, whom that there sea is named after, landed in 1642 ...lost four of his seamen and shot several Maori.

Over a hundred years later, after Britain had advanced their sea-power and begun to colonise the world, Captain Cook arrived, in 1769.

Trading flourished, and perhaps the most highly prized item for a Maori was a musket ... now there were two warlike peoples on the islands.

A couple of hundred years of blood-letting ensued. Maori rivalries, unfriendly settlements by europeans including, by then, the French (awakening rivalries in that direction too), while newly introduced diseases took their toll as well ...

Not a happy time.

In due course, a treaty was seen to be a good idea and … one was drawn up, with the intention of regulating the situation while being fair to both sides, both Maori and British.

After much and long debate (not difficult to imagine, eh?) the treaty was signed by both sides, at a small place overlooking the Bay of Islands, called Waitangi.

On the Sixth day of February in the year 1840, that was.

Some years later, after mishap and adventure, attempts were made to restore it, which were not really completed until about 1980.

Much has happened since the day of the signing – continuing unrest over unfair treatment, two world wars (with many Maori heroes) along with continuing immigration from Europe – and Asia, also some from the Americas.

Debate over the treaty is ongoing – misunderstandings, faults in translation, accusations of partisanship – and not forgetting the inevitable – failures of clarity that are inherent in any attempt to put concepts into words – and translate them.

The treaty is now on display at the National Archives of the Department of Internal Affairs.

A copy, in both languages is on show at Te Papa – The Museum   – in our capital, Wellington.

For Further Reading

The Treaty of Waitangi in English.

The Treaty of Waitangi in Maori.

A translational comparison.

Click here for the recording.
Click on the picture to hear the recording.

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