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Treaty of Waitangi: Why some iwi did not sign and are still fighting for justice

Natasha Hill

More than 500 signed Te Tiriti o Waitangi in 1840, but some iwi leaders didn’t. How has that affected these iwi today?

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

More than 500 signed Te Tiriti o Waitangi in 1840, but some iwi leaders didn’t. How has that affected these iwi today?

Te Tiriti o Waitangi is considered the founding document of Aotearoa, an agreement between Māori and the Crown.

The iwi who did sign only signed the Māori version of the document, not the English version.

The differences in the language used in the Treaty versions has been subject of debate, and protest, as Māori challenged for the terms in the Māori version of Te Tiriti to be upheld.

Ngāi Te Rangi (Tauranga) rangatira, Tupea was one of the iwi leaders who didn’t sign.

Ngāi Te Rangi chief executive Paora Stanley says he doesn’t know why their leader didn’t sign the Treaty.

However, their iwi have been supportive of the Treaty because of the positive outcomes for Māori, he said.

“It’s been a struggle over the years but we have been open to the Treaty because it practised enduring relationships.

“Our people are living longer, have better health and wellbeing outcomes.”

Stanley attended the hui aa motu at Turangawaewae Marae where iwi discussed proposed policies by the Government affecting Māori and Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

Act Party leader David Seymour has proposed the Treaty Principles Bill, saying the Treaty needs to be “defined democratically, rather than by the courts.”

Stanley’s response to Seymour’s proposal is to urge people to not play into the “theatrics” of politics. He hopes we can move forward as a nation.

“Don’t listen to the politics ... it’s making a mockery out of democracy. You gotta have hope,” he said.

“I have faith in our country walking forward. It makes sense when have to think logically.”

He said the Treaty has become a “buffer to prevent an all-out war” and that people hold the power, not politicians.

Poutama Paki, from Ngāti Tuwharetoa, said despite their iwi leader, Mananui, not signing the 1840 Treaty, his iwi are also supportive of those who did sign it.

“We are humble, so we need to take a humble position ... to support those iwi is to fight as well if we are called upon to advocate and to fight and to bring out our expertise to make sure the Treaty is honoured and maintained.”

Paki said the Treaty wasn’t a prominent point of discussion during his upbringing, rather it was about the Kīngitanga and Rātana.

As an iwi, the Treaty isn’t a prominent part of their lives but they can see how different it is for iwi who signed it.

“There is a prominent difference, especially those of Te Tai Tokerau. I can see it and feel it, especially at the last hui aa motu. They feel close to the Treaty.

“They are a lot more vocal and a lot more absolute in their pursuing of Tiriti rights.”

In the lead-up to hui aa motu at Turangawaewae Marae the iwi had three meetings to gather and unify their position on the matter.

“I think that was really one of the positive things that came out of the hui. It forced those kinds of conversations out of the iwi.”

Waitangi Day is on Tuesday.

Hero Image: Waitangi Day celebrations begin this Sunday at the Treaty grounds.

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