I made these notes for some overseas teachers at some point:
On Wednesday, February 6th,New Zealand celebrates the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi. This document, surrounded by so much political debate, marks the beginning of an important era in New Zealand history and, as early childhood educators in New Zealand, it is one of the documents that our teaching must be in line with – the other is Te Whāriki (the Early Childhood Curriculum). For this reason, it seems appropriate to remind ourselves what this document represents – and how it affects our educational practices.
Firstly, in case you are unfamiliar with the Treaty’s history, here are some interesting points:
- The treaty was designed to pass sovereignty of New Zealand to the British Crown.
- Drafted quickly and without legal council, it was written in English and translated into Maori. It was the Maori version that was discussed and signed by those chiefs present at Waitangi.
- The English and Maori versions of the Treaty differ greatly with respect to the cultural understandings that each drew upon (Maori at this time, for example, did not conceive of land as something that could be owned or sold).
- William Hobson (after whom the mountain/maunga up the road from BearPark was named) was the British envoy sent to negotiate the transfer of sovereignty from Maori to the crown. He was also to become the first Governor of New Zealand.
- ‘The’ treaty was signed by over 500 Maori chiefs on 6 Feb 1840 in the Bay of Islands (and is named after the estuarine river near where the signing took place).
- However, many signatures were actually attained over the next few months and there were several (different) versions of the treaty in circulation during this period.
- Not all tribal chiefs signed the treaties.
- Maori at this time did not conceive of themselves as one nation; they identified themselves through tribal affiliations. The term ‘Maori’ (which literally means ‘natural’ or ‘normal’ or ‘local’) was adopted in order to distinguish the indigenous New Zealanders from those who had recently immigrated.
- If you or your children would like to learn more about this period (or any period) of New Zealand history, Michael King’s Penguin History of New Zealand is widely recognized and very readable. You might also refer to http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/ or http://www.teara.govt.nz/. If you wish to learn more about Maori culture, the Auckland Museum offers cultural performances and informative exhibitions. It also has a lot of information on its website http://www.aucklandmuseum.com/ (which may be of particular use to you if you have school-age children).
- Read the Treaty at http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/politics/treaty/read-the-treaty/english-text
- Learn to ‘kōrero Māori’ at http://www.korero.maori.nz/