A report commissioned by grievance specialist Titewhai Harawira and released last month claimed that that Ngapuhi did not sign away their sovereignty to the British Crown and did not cede governance to the Crown either. The report says chiefs wanted the Crown to provide a governor who would take charge of its unruly British subjects living here.
Three Ngapuhi chiefs who confirmed British sovereignty at the 1860 Kohimarama Conference were Tamati Waka Nene, who signed the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, Te Taurau, and Wi Te Tete.
Tamati Waka Nene told the conference: “I know no sovereign but the Queen, and I shall never know any other.”
Te Taurau said: “I am from Ngapuhi. … there [is] but one name upon earth – the Queen. Let us then rest under the [Queen’s] Government.”
Wi Te Tete said: “Let me have the last word! We have now become one people under the Queen.”
When this was drawn to the attention of Maori Studies Professor Dame Anne Salmond, she responded by saying that “no professional historian would take that as definitive evidence of Maori understandings in 1840”.
Whatever “professional historians” might do, it is nonsense to suggest that Maori chiefs with well-trained memories would have forgotten what happened at an event as significant as the treaty signing.
On the question of whether or not Ngapuhi ceded sovereignty, we have the testimony of Rev. Samuel Warren who was present at the Waitangi signing and later at Hokianga. Rev. Warren said:
“There was a great deal of talk by the natives, principally on the subject of securing their proprietary right to the land, and their personal liberty. Everything else they were only too happy to yield to the Queen, as they said repeatedly, because they knew they could only be saved from the rule of other nations by sitting under the shadow of the Queen of England. In my hearing they frequently remarked, ‘Let us be one people. We had the gospel from England, let us have the law from England.’ My impression at the time was that the natives perfectly understood that by signing the treaty they became British subjects, and though I lived amongst them more than fifteen years after the event, and often conversed with them on the subject, I never saw the slightest reason to change my opinion.”
Sir Apirana Ngata, a prominent New Zealand politician, a former Minister of Native Affairs, and lawyer, agreed that sovereignty was ceded in 1840. In The Treaty of Waitangi – An Explanation, in 1922, he wrote that “the chiefs placed in the hands of the Queen of England the sovereignty and authority to make laws”.
As for the treaty wording, Salmond has claimed that “kawanatanga is not a plausible stand-in for sovereignty”.
She is wrong again. Consider the expression for “library” in Maori – kete wananga. It is derived from the words “wisdom basket” but its meaning is “library”. Derivation and translation are not the same thing. The meaning of “kawanatanga” is “sovereignty”.
Both English and Maori versions of the treaty were read at Waitangi and no amendment was made to the wording.
In 2000, Ngapuhi elder Graham Rankin said their meaning was the same. Now Pita Tipene says Ngapuhi have been making Salmond’s claim since soon after the ink dried on the treaty and that “The Crown acquired sovereignty by guile”. Both these claims are untrue – the historical record denies them.
The “Declaration of Independence” which Harawira and other Ngapuhi refer to frequently was concocted by James Busby as was his “Confederation of Tribes”. This fell apart within two years of the “Declaration” being signed – Ngapuhi began fighting among themselves and Chief Titore was killed. The “Declaration” was a short-lived and long-dead paper tiger. It is absurd that Ngapuhi should try to resurrect it now.
Our nation was not founded on a lie but on a treaty between honourable men. We became one people. Titewhai Harawira’s Ngapuhi claim is a fabrication that she and others are trying to foist upon us.
The time has come for our democratic representatives to stand their ground and strike it out for ever.
Bruce Moon is a retired computer pioneer who wrote "Real Treaty; False Treaty - The True Waitangi Story".