What is the Treaty of Waitangi

Treaty of Waitangi

The Treaty of Waitangi is an agreement signed between the British Crown and Maori people on 6th February 1840 by 43 Northland chiefs and Lieutenant Governor Hobson.

He was the official representative of Queen Victoria, the young woman reigning over the British empire.

In the treaty, the Maori (indigenous people) gave up most of their land in return for the protection of land, the protection of their way of life, and the promise of fair and equal treatment for them by the British. This treaty was signed and ratified in 1840, but was not implemented into law until 1983.

Over the following eight months the originals and copies were taken by Captain Hobson around Maori communities, mostly in coastal locations.

After several discussions and debates, over 500 chiefs including 6 women signed. Most of them used a cross or moko (a signature tattoo). Some of them (less than 15%) signed their names in a wobbly hand.

The Treaty was signed in the hope that Māori would recognise Crown sovereignty over the lands they inhabited. This treaty came at the end of a period of conquest in which New Zealand had been largely depopulated, its land was taken, and its people were removed to isolated reserves.

The Crown, however, made use of the Treaty to legitimise the taking of lands (including, of course, the Treaty Lands) without compensation and to continue to control them through a system of ‘native legislation’. This was the only way for Māori to claim their interests and rights were acknowledged. Māori people were forced to continue to work these lands, for which there was never any payment and the land never reverted to them.

What is the Treaty of Waitangi today?

In 1989, the government of New Zealand released a report by a group called the Waitangi Tribunal that looked at past land disputes, in which the government of New Zealand was involved.

The government then announced in 1990 that they would try to make amends for the wrongs that had been done. They would have to pay people who had lost land. The Maori would also have to get land that had been taken from them in the past.

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