Which Treaty of Waitangi – The True One

Many have their pet theories of what are alleged to be a collection of various Treaties, but most are wrong. Henry and Edward Williams translated Hobson’s final draft treaty of 4th February 1840 to the Ngapuhi dialect as closely as the idiom of the language would admit (Henry’s words).

Only this version in Maori was presented at signing meetings, Hobson’s emissaries being under his orders not to allow any one to sign until he fully understood it. At Waitangi both English and Maori texts were read out and nobody said their meanings differed – confirmed in 2000 by elder Graham Rankin.

East Coast emissaries were Henry’s missionary brother William, son Henry and George Clarke the younger, all fluent in Maori and they would have followed their instructions faithfully. 39 chiefs signed including David Rangikatia, Te Kauruoterangi and Kauruoterangi.

Hobson made it clear that under British law, protection could be offered to New Zealand only by ceding sovereignty. This was the provision of Article first. Talk of a limited governorship is nonsense. Like the word democracy, there was no classic Maori word for sovereignty (showing how vague the concepts were), so the Williams chose the missionary-coined word kawanatanga. Its derivation is obvious (kawana = governor), but derivation is not the same as translation. E.g. kete wananga means library, but is derived from basket [of] wisdom / learning / knowledge.

At Waitangi and Hokianga where the chiefs’ words were recorded, plainly they knew that by signing they became subordinate to the Governor and the Queen. Judge Fenton confuses sovereignty with land ownership. Hobson, by proclamation on 30th January recognized Maori land ownership and said that pre-treaty sales required examination before confirmation.

Article second guaranteed the right of property ownership – hitherto held only by force of arms. See Hongi Hika’s 1820 definition of taonga – property procured by the spear. With no adequate Maori word, the Williams chose the missionary-coined tino rangatiratanga for possession.

More than that: the guarantee was to tangata katoa o Nu Tirani. If that does not mean all the people of New Zealand in any dialect, who will tell us what it does mean?

Article third granted full rights as British subjects to all Maoris – tangata Maori, katoa o Nu Tirani – including slaves who had no rights at all beforehand: note that distinction! Though some treaty twisters try to claim Article the second means the same thing. It was unnecessary to include existing British subjects and foreigners’ status was not changed. It was a generous gift, unique then in colonial history.

It is time for all New Zealanders to recognize that Waitangi Tribunal reports are worthless as honest assessments of historical situations. Witness their support – against all the contemporary evidence – for the spurious Ngapuhi claim that they did not cede sovereignty and for the Ngai Tahu claim which Alan Everton (and others) found to be a swindle.

The great thing about the Treaty was that it guaranteed equality to everyone – no special rights to Maoris or anybody else. Of course that change took some time to become reality, and, on occasions Maoris have had greater rights than the settlers. Nobody should be trying today to alter the Treaty articles or the blessing of democracy to the advantage of any special interest group, racial or otherwise.

Although there were extra signature sheets, the Treaty of Waitangi is not as some say, a living document, nor a collection of documents, but a deal signed and sealed on one piece of paper in 1840, at Waitangi. It is time now to move on together as New Zealanders.

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