Waitangi Day – A Fresh Look

The annual Waitangi Day commemoration is now just a day away, it’s a chance to check how much we know about our country’s founding agreement. The Government certainly needs to check their assumptions about Te Tiriti o Waitangi since they base their actions on the false premise that tangata whenua ceded sovereignty to the Crown in 1840.

Our Waitangi heritage

In 1840 the hapū of Aotearoa are thought to have totalled about 200,000 people and the European migrants about 2,000 people. The assumption that the 200,000 ceded their sovereignty to a few representatives of the British Crown is not plausible. The different hapū and iwi had their own systems of governance and decision making. They had functional tikanga and kawa which sustained their social life and use rights to natural resources. They made an agreement with the Queens representative so that the 2,000 unruly migrants would have a governor and trade and technology exchanges could continue with the most powerful western nation seeking a place on their shores. The history and context for this negotiation is outlined in the excellent report “Ngāpuhi Speaks“.

No iwi or hapū has ever announced that their rangatiratanga has been ceded since 1840 and in 2014 the Waitangi Tribunal investigated this question in depth. Their conclusion was that the evidence was unequivocal – the rangatira who signed Te Tiriti never ceded their sovereignty to the British Crown. So although the Government likes to act like they have a right to govern Te Ao Māori its not true. We do have a founding agreement which commits the parties to an ongoing relationship, between tangata whenua and the Crown. Relationships that last are based on respect and negotiation, not one party dominating and imposing. Our Te Tiriti needs to be honoured not “settled”. On Waitangi Day and every other day this relationship can be the basis for peace and mutual respect.

Further reading