Treaty of Waitangi

By the late 1830s, one-fifth, or 20,000 Māori people, were killed off as a result of the Musket War. Approximately 125,000 Māori remained with 2,000 European settlers occupying Aotearoa. As a result of a rise in European settlers in addition to the fall of the Māori people, the British Crown sent Captain William Hobson to negotiate a treaty between the two parties.

Captain Hobson was sent to Aotearoa by Lord Normanby, a colonial secretary in the 1830s, to help negotiate the Treaty of Waitangi. Lord Normanby instructed Captain Hobson that all negotiations over the Treaty of Waitangi and interactions with the Māori people must be conducted with the same principles that the British Crown would conduct any negotiations or treaty. More specifically, Lord Normanby stated that Captain Hobson and his crew must treat the Māori with the principles of sincerity, justice, and good faith. The Māori people should not be forced into a treaty in which they do not have a basic understanding of nor any involvement with.

The Treaty of Waitangi was signed in Waitangi, otherwise called the Bay of Island by Captain Hobson, on February 6, 1840 by several European settlers and 45 Māori tribe leaders or chiefs. The Māori translation of the treaty was taken around Northland for the 45 signatures with duplicates distributed around the other parts of Aotearoa. On the other hand, the English version of the Treaty of Waitangi was signed at Waikato Heads and at Manukau by 39 Māori tribe leaders or chiefs. By the end of 1840, the leaders of over 500 Māori tribes signed the Treaty of Waitangi – 13 of which were women.

Problems that were raised as a result of both an English and Māori translation text were based mainly on the different meanings the translated words connoted. Despite these misunderstandings, the Māori leaders gave the British Crown permission to govern over Aotearoa. In return, the Treaty of Waitangi required the British Crown provided full protection of the Aotearoa’s interest, full recognition of the state, its interest, and provide full citizenship to the Māori and European settlers. In addition, the English version of the text emphasized the importance of protecting the native’s interest from other settlers, permission for British settlements, and the establishment of a government, which will provide peace and order. The Māori translated version of the text emphasized native landownership and tribal sovereignty as well.

To combat any allegations that the Māori people were forced into a treaty in which they did not have a basic understanding of nor any involvement with, the British Crown included in the epilogue that the signatories entered discussion and negotiations of the Treaty of Waitangi in full spirit and understanding.