'A Bloody Difficult Subject': Ruth Ross, te Tiriti o Waitangi and the making of history
Auckland University Press, NZ$59.99 hb, 302 pp
The Treaty of Waitangi – in Māori, te Tiriti o Waitangi – has in New Zealand, during the past forty years, acquired a degree of significance in relations between the state and iwi and hapū (tribal groups). A permanent commission of inquiry, the Waitangi Tribunal, is empowered to report on claims by Māori that acts or omissions of the state have been or are contrary to the principles of the Treaty and have had prejudicial consequences.
The Treaty was first signed on 6 February 1840 in the far north, and eventually by more than five hundred chiefs as far south as Foveaux Strait, although the leaders of some major iwi did not sign. All but thirty-nine signed the Māori text.
In Māori, by the first article the chiefs gave to Queen Victoria ‘te Kawanatanga katoa o o ratou wenua’, while the second article guaranteed to the chiefs, tribes, and all Māori ‘te tino rangatiratanga o o ratou wenua o ratou kainga me o ratou taonga katoa’. These have been authoritatively translated as ‘the complete government over their land’ and as ‘the unqualified exercise of their chieftainship over their lands, villages and all their treasures’.