One treaty, two languages, 9 sheets

The 9 sheets that make up our treaty - 7 on paper and 2 on parchment which was nibbled away by rats

Te Tiriti o Waitangi is not one document but is made up of 9 sheets; 8 in te reo Māori, one in English. One Māori-language sheet is printed, the other sheets all handwritten. After the first signing at Waitangi, the treaty sheets were taken to about 50 gatherings over 7 months. About 540 Māori rangatira signed in total, many did not. So who signed and where and when?

Soon after the 6 February signing, the Waitangi sheet was taken elsewhere in the north – Waimate, Hokianga and Kaitāia, as well as the Waitemāta Harbour and Hauraki Gulf. Handwritten copies along with one printed copy were then taken to various parts of the North and South Island. Travelling mostly by sea, many areas were not visited e.g.the Taranaki region has no natural harbour, so Treaty negotiators sailed past. Few locations on the South Island were visited.

The largest signing was on 12 February at Māngungu Mission near Horeke, where about 70 rangatira signed in front of a gathering of up to 3000 Māori. Only 39 chiefs ever signed the English-language copy (the Waikato-Manukau sheet), which did not match the Māori-language version. The last signature was collected on 3 September 1840 (the Manukau-Kāwhia sheet), but by May, Hobson had proclaimed British sovereignty over the whole of New Zealand.

The missionaries had encouraged rangatira to sign, believing it would protect Māori and their land. The question now was – would the Crown honour its promises? The chiefs who signed did so trusting that it would.

Rangatira signed in various ways – some with their name and some with a unique tohu (mark); sometimes tohu came from part of their tā moko (facial tattoo) design. Our student groups often spend time in Te Kōngahu Museum exploring the 9 treaty sheets on digital interactive screens displaying the tohu or signatures of each rangatira and the location and date of signing.

Explore Ngā Wāhi – Treaty Signing Locations and the chiefs who signed.

Find out about preserving the documents.

Image source

17/2/2021  IR