Myth No. 7.
There are two conflicting versions of the Treaty – one in English and the other in Maori.
There is only one treaty – in Maori – (Te Tiriti o Waitangi), that was signed by around 500 chiefs. It was constructed from the English draft, known as the Littlewood Document (see Appendix B on page 31). Hobson’s secretary, James Freeman, acting improperly, later made some English “versions” of the Treaty in what he considered more suitable language to send to dignitaries overseas. These were neither drafts of the Treaty nor translations of it but one of these unofficial English documents was signed by some chiefs at Waikato Heads because there was not enough space on the genuine document for all the signatures. By creating the Treaty of Waitangi Act 1975 the government has adopted this incorrect document, signed by a mere 49 chiefs in the abovementioned circumstances, as the “official” treaty, displacing Te Tiriti that was signed by nearly 500 chiefs!!
Myth No. 8
The Treaty of Waitangi is a “living document”.
Not correct. The Treaty was merely the pre-condition for establishing British rule, which Governor Hobson did by proclamation later in 1840. By the end of 1840 the Treaty had performed its function, viz. acceptance by the chiefs of British sovereignty in exchange for full British citizenship for all Maoris. It is only a “living document” for those who want to expand its meaning so as to give ever more questionable rights to the tribal elite, thereby denying other citizens their equal rights.
Myth No. 9.
Colonisation was bad for Maoris.
The Treaty of Waitangi and British colonisation brought the advantages and restraints of civilised government to New Zealand for the first time. This was the catalyst that brought New Zealand from a state of war and anarchy to one of peace that ended the cannibalism, infanticide and inter-tribal warfare that had been features of Maori society since time immemorial, thus giving them a right to freedom and personal security that they had not had before.
Conflict resolution came to be through the courts and no longer by savage battle with victory going to the more powerful, where might was right. Limits on the power of chiefs benefited all Maori. Chiefs themselves lived with greater security, no longer forced by the demands of utu to risk their lives while taking the lives of others.
British law, recognising Maori ownership of land until such time as they decided to sell (as many did), gave Maoris titles guaranteed by law to virtually the whole of New Zealand – something they had never had before as land ownership under the old Maori law of tikanga was determined by military might; any tribe could be attacked during the night by a stronger one with better weapons, ensuring a change of land ownership.
The Treaty of Waitangi freed all the chiefs’ slaves (about 10,000 of them). They were then free to take work on things like road building contracts, thus earning money and being able to spend it how they liked.
For a society that had not even invented the wheel or writing, colonisation brought all the advanced inventions, comforts and modern medicine of the Western world. In 1840 the average life expectancy of a Maori was less than 30 years. In 2013 it was 73 years for men and 77.1 years for women.
Myth No. 10.
Maori had to wait 27 years after 1840 before being granted the vote in 1867.
Not so. Maoris had the same representation as all other New Zealanders from the very beginning – after all, the Treaty had given them the full rights of British subjects. In 1853 all men over twenty-one who owned property (with no distinction for race) could vote. At the time about 100 Maoris (mainly leaders) were enrolled to vote and by 1860 some 17% of the electorate were Maoris. The special Maori seats in Parliament were introduced in 1867 when all Maori men over twenty-one (with
no property provision) could vote. By contrast, a property qualification still applied to Europeans so that many remained excluded. In 1893 all women, including Maori, were granted the vote. Now that Maoris are so fully integrated into society there is no longer any reason to continue the race-based Maori seats in Parliament.
Myth No. 11.
In 1863, during the Maori War, Governor Grey “invaded” the Waikato.
This misrepresentation has been bandied about for several years – usually by so-called “professional historians” with an axe to grind. The word “invade” implies a hostile entry by a foreign power -e.g. Hitler invading Poland in 1939 and Argentina invading the Falkland Islands in 1981. Since Grey was the Governor of New Zealand, holding legal jurisdiction over the whole country, how could he “invade” part of it? What he did was to send troops legally into the Waikato to suppress a rebellion against the sovereign power – something that every state is entitled to do. That is not an “invasion”.
Myth No. 12.
Confiscation of lands from rebellious tribes during and after the Maori Wars was a breach of the Treaty.
In the words of Sir Apirana Ngata, the first Maori to graduate from a university and probably the greatest thinker that Maoridom has yet produced, “The chiefs placed in the hands of the Queen of England the sovereignty and authority to make laws. Some sections of the Maori people violated that authority. War arose from this and blood was spilled. The law came into operation and land was taken in payment. This itself is a Maori custom – revenge, plunder to avenge a wrong. It was their own chiefs who ceded that right to the Queen. The confiscations can not therefore be objected to in the light of the treaty.”
Ngata also said in 1940 that the Treaty was “a gentleman’s agreement which on the whole has not been badly observed”.