People in Wellington have a good understanding of the Treaty of Waitangi and what needed to be done to honour it.” –Wellington City Councillor, Jill Day, in supporting Maori wards

Honour the Treaty

By Roger Childs

Honour the Treaty” is a catch cry we hear often these days, but which Treaty? Silly question? No, there is a choice:

  • The Treaty of Waitangi (Te Tiriti o Waitangi) in Maori signed at Waitangi on 6 February 6 1840. Nine copies were made and sent to 34 locations around the country. 512 chiefs, including 13 women, signed.
  • The Freeman Treaty in English which was signed by 39 chiefs at Waikato Heads and Manakau. This version was needed because Maori versions of the original were not available. Unfortunately Freeman added some flourishes and additions of his own. (See more below.)
  • The English draft prepared by British Resident James Busby from Captain Hobson’s notes. It was this draft that Missionaries Henry Williams and his son Edward translated into the Maori Te Tiriti.
  • A copy of the English draft was sent by American Consul James Clendon to  Washington DC. This is the same as what is known as the “Littlewood Treaty”. This hand-written Treaty text was discovered by John Littlewood and his sister in 1989. Their forebear, solicitor Henry Littlewood, did work for James Clendon.
  • The 1989 Hugh Kawharu translation of the Maori version of the Treaty into English. He gave new meanings to the original Maori words in the treaty — taonga, kawanatanga and rangitiratanga. (See more below.)

The one and only true Treaty

This is the one Maori chiefs signed on 6 February at Waitangi and other tribal leaders signed in subsequent months around the country. What did it say in the three articles? In summary:

  1. Chiefs ceded sovereignty (Kawantanga) completely and forever to the Queen and her successors.
  2. The right of possession of their lands, dwellings and property (taonga) to “all the people of New Zealand”.
  3. All Maori were given the same rights as all British people.

Maori who wished to sell land could only do so through the Crown’s representatives.

There were no partnership mentioned, no principles and no reference to fisheries or forests.

So this Treaty is the only valid one as it was the original.

Freeman’s bogus Treaty

James Freeman was Hobson’s Secretary, and when a treaty for signing was needed at Waikato Heads and Manakau, he took it upon himself to write his own. (Hobson was sick at the time.) 

His Treaty excluded the reference in Article 2 to “all the people of New Zealand” and he added “Estates, Forests Fisheries” to the possessions list in the same article. 

Freeman sent his copy to the Governor of New South Wales. 

His treaty was un-authorised so is not valid.   

Kawharu’s mistranslation

Professor Hugh Kawharu 1989 version changed the meaning of three crucial words:

  • Kawanatanga meant “sovereignty” in 1840, Kawharu made it “government”.
  • Rangitiratanga appeared in the original preamble but not in the articles. In 1840 it meant “possession”. Kawharu translated it as “chieftainship”. 
  • Taonga meant property, however controversially Kawharu widened the meaning to “treasures” which opened the floodgates for claims to the Waitangi Tribunal.

The Waitangi Tribunal uses Kawharu’s version. Kawharu served on the Tribunal for a time and was also a claimant.

Honouring the Treaty of Waitangi 

As stated above, this can only be to the original 1840 document. So in honouring the Treaty there can be no mention of partnership or principles as they didn’t feature in 1840. 

Constitutionally the Crown (the government on behalf of the Queen) cannot enter into a partnership with a particular group of the population.   

There was also no reference to foreshore, seabed, air waves, fisheries, forests or legislative provisions in the treaty signed at Waitangi.  Unfortunately all these things have featured or been cited in Waitangi Tribunal claims and should not have been allowed to proceed.

The Treaty of Waitangi gave Maori equal rights, but not special rights.