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.
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”.