Writing as a grindstone. Finished writing, unfinished writing, writing ideas, things that I'll never get round to writing, other things. Grinding it out, grinding away. Writing some more.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Happy Independence day

So today (28 October) is the anniversary of the signing of He Whakaputanga o te Rangatiratanga o Nu Tirene in 1835. I celebrated the day in a workshop on Te Tiriti o Waitangi. This is a really brief overview of my understanding of the relevance of those two documents.

The two documents, He Whakaputanga and Te Tiriti, are very closely related—Ani Mikaere describes He Whakaputanga as the key to understanding Te Tiriti. The figure to the left shows this whakapapa: tikanga Māori reflects a Māori understanding of reality. The arrival and behaviour of Europeans created a new set of risks for tangata whenua, and hapū from the north looked to a solution from tikanga Māori—the only place they would look. He Whakaputanga affirms a Māori way of organising: hapū retain their rangatiratanga, but will gather as He Whakaminenga to discuss issues affecting all of them.

Te Tiriti was written 5 years later, and retains two key terms of He Whakaputanga—rangatiratanga (meaning ultimate authority and independence) and kāwanatanga (meaning delegated authority). It is a very simple document. Te Tiriti reaffirms He Whakaputanga, rangatiratanga remains with hapū, but some authority is delegated to the Crown in order that they can manage their own people. As Moana Jackson points out, this is consistent with the Māori traditions of treaty making.

The Treaty of Waitangi comes from a completely different understanding of the world. Again it is a simple document. According to The Treaty, hapū ceded sovereignty to the Crown, but retain limited property rights. This is in the tradition of European colonising laws.

It should be clear that Te Tiriti and The Treaty are pretty much diametrically opposing—according to one, hapū have ultimate political power under which the Crown has limited authority; according to the other the Crown has ultimate political power under which Māori have property rights. We are taught that they are two versions of the same document, but clearly they are not, they are based on entirely different understandings of the world and entirely different legal systems.

The principles of The Treaty are a recent invention, which are supposed to provide a bridge between the two documents. The majority of hapū did not sign Te Tiriti, 500+ rangatira signed Te Tiriti on behalf of their hapū, 30+ signed The Treaty, and none signed the principles of The Treaty. Yet all school children learn about the principles of The Treaty, most New Zealanders know a bit about The Treaty, and very few know anything beyond the existence of Te Tiriti. The principles do nothing to challenge the idea of Crown sovereignty, they are in fact an affirmation of The Treaty. As my figure shows, the principles of The Treaty are therefore born from the Treaty of Waitangi, which in turn was born from colonising law.

This is a shitty, quick overview to celebrate the signing of He Whakaputanga. If you want to find out more about He Whakaputanga and Te Tiriti, I recommend Ani Mikaere’s article “Te Tiriti and the Treaty: seeking to reconcile the irreconcilable in the name of truth”.


  1. Anonymous12:56 am

    Choice one Kim, short, not-at-all-shitty summary.
    I hadn't realised that before, i just assumed that Te Tiriti also came from the crown via translators and they were either incompetent or deliberately trying to fudge it so Maori would sign. Interesting for me to realise that te tiriti actually comes from Maori. So now i need to find out more about it.
    On the point of the principles, crazy how they just stand in for the treaty everywhere. I don't remember them right now... partnership, protection...? They are so vague. I wrote an essay for teacher's college using the principles tho to analyse the racist/colonising attitudes/practises of my placement school... and i remember finding them kind of useful. Well. That school was pretty shit, so they only had to be better than nothing. Standards, ay.


  2. Hey Pip,

    thanks for your comment. I'm going to write a post on the principles shortly, because I think the lies around them are really interesting. (I'm not actually trying to ignore the election, it's just that it makes me too angry to be able to write)

    While Te Tiriti was certainly drafted by the Crown, it was with knowledge of He Whakaputanga. At the recent Waitangi Tribunal hearings in the north, evidence was given about the first draft of Te Tiriti. This draft stated that Māori were giving their mana to the Queen of England. Māori refused to sign this treaty (because it was a nonsense--who would agree to give away their mana? How would that even work?). Te Tiriti was rewritten to say Māori would give the Queen kawanatanga (which Māori and Pākehā both understood to mean delegated authority, as it had been used in He Whakaputanga and translations of the Bible).

    It's really clear that the agreement was for Māori to retain mana whenua and to receive rights of British subjects, for the Crown to be responsible for her people and to have first option in any land sales. But as you say, that's certainly not where the principles are at. And as you say, the crown doesn't even stick with their own crappy standards. I guess that's the good faith clause--Māori have to accept Crown bullshit in good faith.

    anyway, ranty.
    nice to hear from you.

  3. A simple document drafted by a simple people with a simple and narrow understanding of the world, tis true. We can only hope and pray that the beauty, truth and power of Teo Ao Maori begins increasingly to shine through the cracks in the Western power system to be made by Hone and other true leaders. Kia Kaka