Story: Treaty of Waitangi

Page 5. Māori responses to the treaty – 1880 to 1900

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Debating the treaty

Māori looked closely at the promises made to them in the treaty to try and solve problems arising from settlement and land loss. From the 1870s many conferences debated issues of law and authority, land and fisheries. Ngāti Whatua, a tribe in the Auckland region led by the chief Paora Tūhaere, held major gatherings for this purpose in 1879 and the early 1880s. At Waitangi, Te Tii marae became a key place to deliberate on treaty issues.

At each of these conferences, strategies were adopted to redress the power imbalance between the Crown and Māori authority, and regain control of Māori affairs. Māori sent hundreds of petitions on treaty-related grievances to the government, to no avail.

Petitioning the Crown

In 1882, 1884, 1914 and 1924, deputations of Māori travelled to England to take petitions based on the treaty to the British monarch and the government. Each of these petitions asked for treaty rights to be observed. They were all referred back by the Crown to the New Zealand Parliament, which denied breaching the treaty. Parliament clearly had no intention of upholding the treaty as Māori understood it.

Parliamentary representation for Māori

The first four Māori members of Parliament, elected in 1868, were not able to exert influence in a Parliament dominated by settler politicians. The Māori MPs introduced a long string of bills seeking to give effect to the treaty and to obtain greater control for Māori over their own affairs. These were voted down by the other MPs.

Māori parliaments

Māori set up alternative institutions to assert their treaty rights. A pan-tribal Māori parliament, Te Kotahitanga o te Tiriti o Waitangi (the union of the Treaty of Waitangi), was formed in 1892. Its supporters hoped that a unified Māori voice might support the Māori MPs and be heard by the Parliament in Wellington. However, politicians ignored the Kotahitanga parliament and it ceased meeting early in the 20th century.

The King movement had also established a parliament, Te Kauhanganui, in the 1880s. This grew more active in the early 20th century, and remained in existence in the 21st century. In 2008 representatives of Te Kauhanganui signed an agreement with the government leading to co-management of the Waikato River.

How to cite this page:

Claudia Orange, 'Treaty of Waitangi - Māori responses to the treaty – 1880 to 1900', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/treaty-of-waitangi/page-5 (accessed 1 May 2017)

Story by Claudia Orange, published 20 Jun 2012