There are two versions of Te Tiriti o Waitangi – one written in English and one written in te reo Māori.
More than 500 Māori chiefs signed the Māori text. Only around 40 signed the English text.
In 1840, nine copies of the agreement were sent around the country to be signed by various Māori chiefs. Just one of those copies was in English.
The Māori text is not an exact translation of the English text. In fact, there are some big differences between the two.
In the English text of the Treaty, Māori cede sovereignty to the Queen of England. In other words, they surrender their authority, and agree that the Queen can make laws over their people.
But in the Māori text they agreed to the Queen’s kāwanatanga, or governorship.
Many experts have said that kāwanatanga was a limited authority and meant the Queen could manage British settlers, while Māori retained the authority to manage their own people.
In 2014, the Waitangi Tribunal released a landmark report agreeing with this position and emphasised that Māori never ceded sovereignty.
In the English text, the Queen confirms and guarantees to Māori the full exclusive and undisturbed possession of their lands, estates, forests, fisheries, and other properties. It also provides for the Queen’s exclusive right to purchase any land that Māori wish to sell.
In Article Two of the Māori text, Māori retain tino rangatiratanga, or independent and absolute authority, over their land, homes and taonga.
Some argue the retention of tino rangatiratanga contradicts the idea that Māori ceded sovereignty.
The word taonga is important too. Taonga encompasses all things that are highly prized, including intangible things, like language and customary knowledge.
So, the guarantee of tino rangatiratanga to Māori over taonga was seen as a promise of independent and absolute authority over everything that they treasured.
This is the least contentious article in terms of its translation, however there are ongoing debates as to its meaning and effect.
It provides that Māori will receive all the rights and privileges of British subjects.
One key consistency in both versions is the promise that the Crown would protect Māori. In the preamble to the Treaty, the protection of Māori from lawless settlers was a key concern, and one of the main reasons a Treaty was needed in the first place.
The Māori text of te Tiriti
Ko Wikitoria te Kuini o Ingarani i tana mahara atawai ki nga Rangatira me nga Hapu o Nu Tirani i tana hiahia hoki kia tohungia ki a ratou o ratou rangatiratanga me to ratou wenua, a kia mau tonu hoki te Rongo ki a ratou me te Atanoho hoki kua wakaaro ia he mea tika kia tukua mai tetahi Rangatira – hei kai wakarite ki nga Tangata maori o Nu Tirani – kia wakaaetia e nga Rangatira maori te Kawanatanga o te Kuini ki nga wahikatoa o te wenua nei me nga motu – na te mea hoki he tokomaha ke nga tangata o tona Iwi Kua noho ki tenei wenua, a e haere mai nei.
Na ko te Kuini e hiahia ana kia wakaritea te Kawanatanga kia kaua ai nga kino e puta mai ki te tangata maori ki te Pakeha e noho ture kore ana.
Na kua pai te Kuini kia tukua a hau a Wiremu Hopihona he Kapitana i te Roiara Nawi hei Kawana mo nga wahi katoa o Nu Tirani e tukua aianei amua atu ki te Kuini, e mea atu ana ia ki nga Rangatira o te wakaminenga o nga hapu o Nu Tirani me era Rangatira atu enei ture ka korerotia nei.
Ko nga Rangatira o te wakaminenga me nga Rangatira katoa hoki ki hai i uru ki taua wakaminenga ka tuku rawa atu ki te Kuini o Ingarani ake tonu atu – te Kawanatanga katoa o o ratou wenua.
Ko te Kuini o Ingarani ka wakarite ka wakaae ki nga Rangatira ki nga hapu – ki nga tangata katoa o Nu Tirani te tino rangatiratanga o o ratou wenua o ratou kainga me o ratou taonga katoa. Otiia ko nga Rangatira o te wakaminenga me nga Rangatira katoa atu ka tuku ki te Kuini te hokonga o era wahi wenua e pai ai te tangata nona te wenua – ki te ritenga o te utu e wakaritea ai e ratou ko te kai hoko e meatia nei e te Kuini hei kai hoko mona.
Hei wakaritenga mai hoki tenei mo te wakaaetanga ki te Kawanatanga o te Kuini – Ka tiakina e te Kuini o Ingarani nga tangata maori katoa o Nu Tirani ka tukua ki a ratou nga tikanga katoa rite tahi ki ana mea ki nga tangata o Ingarani.
Na ko matou ko nga Rangatira o te Wakaminenga o nga hapu o Nu Tirani ka huihui nei ki Waitangi ko matou hoki ko nga Rangatira o Nu Tirani ka kite nei i te ritenga o enei kupu. Ka tangohia ka wakaaetia katoatia e matou, koia ka tohungia ai o matou ingoa o matou tohu.
Ka meatia tenei ki Waitangi i te ono o nga ra o Pepueri i te tau kotahi mano e waru rau e wa te kau o to tatou Ariki.
Ko nga Rangatira o te Wakaminenga
The English text of the Treaty
Her Majesty Victoria Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland regarding with Her Royal Favor the Native Chiefs and Tribes of New Zealand and anxious to protect their just Rights and Property and to secure to them the enjoyment of Peace and Good Order has deemed it necessary in consequence of the great number of Her Majesty’s Subjects who have already settled in New Zealand and the rapid extension of Emigration both from Europe and Australia which is still in progress to constitute and appoint a functionary properly authorized to treat with the Aborigines of New Zealand for the recognition of Her Majesty’s sovereign authority over the whole or any part of those islands – Her Majesty therefore being desirous to establish a settled form of Civil Government with a view to avert the evil consequences which must result from the absence of the necessary Laws and Institutions alike to the native population and to Her subjects has been graciously pleased to empower and to authorize me William Hobson a Captain in Her Majesty’s Royal Navy Consul and Lieutenant Governor of such parts of New Zealand as may be or hereafter shall be ceded to Her Majesty to invite the confederated and independent Chiefs of New Zealand to concur in the following Articles and Conditions.
The Chiefs of the Confederation of the United Tribes of New Zealand and the separate and independent Chiefs who have not become members of the Confederation cede to Her Majesty the Queen of England absolutely and without reservation all the rights and powers of Sovereignty which the said Confederation of Individual Chiefs respectively exercise or possess, or may be supposed to exercise or to possess over their respective Territories as the sole sovereigns thereof.
Her Majesty the Queen of England confirms and guarantees to the Chiefs and Tribes of New Zealand and to the respective families and individuals thereof the full exclusive and undisturbed possession of their Lands and Estates Forests Fisheries and other properties which they may collectively or individually possess so long as it is their wish and desire to retain the same in their possession; but the Chiefs of the United Tribes and the individual Chiefs, yield to Her Majesty the exclusive right of Preemption over such lands as the proprietors thereof may be disposed to alienate at such prices as may be agreed upon between the respective Proprietors and persons appointed by Her Majesty to treat with them in that behalf.
In consideration thereof Her Majesty the Queen of England extends to the Natives of New Zealand Her royal protection and imparts to them all the Rights and Privileges of British Subjects.
Now therefore We the Chiefs of the Confederation of the United Tribes of New Zealand being assembled in Congress at Victoria in Waitangi and We the Separate and Independent Chiefs of New Zealand claiming authority over the Tribes and Territories which are specified after our respective names, having been made fully to understand the Provisions of the foregoing Treaty, accept and enter into the same in the full spirit and meaning thereof in witness of which we have attached our signatures or marks at the places and the dates respectively specified.
Done at Waitangi this Sixth day of February in the year of Our Lord one thousand eight hundred and forty.
The Chiefs of the Confederation