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Tag Archives: colonial culture

Curiosity in Things

CROCC’s first event for 2019 concluded successfully on Friday 25 January.  Dr Rosi Crane, a graduate of Otago History’s PhD programme, an Associate Member of the Centre, and the Museum’s honorary curator of science history organised ‘Held in Trust: Curiosity in Things’, a conference, held at, and in conjunction with the Otago Museum which commemorated its 150th anniversary last year. A range of people, both academics and heritage sector professionals, attended and presented, with most topics relating to collections, collecting and practice in museums from the colonial-era to the present.   See also Otago Humanities story about the conference.


Tony Ballantyne (University of Otago) provided the first keynote, ‘Cultures of Collecting in Colonial Otago’ on Thursday morning.  He noted that notions of “improvement” stimulated the development of intellectual life and culture in early Otago. Several points resonated through many of the following talks: that local enthusiasm, activity and donations allowed institutions such as museums, and even New Zealand’s first university, to be founded and developed; that collecting pervades colonial culture; and that scholars should always be cognizant of the interplay between words and objects. Tony’s talk highlighted the work of Herries Beattie, a local historian who recorded extensive mātauraka from Southern Māori, but was also an inveterate collector of texts and things, with his collections now housed at the Hocken, Otago Museum, as well as museums in Gore and Waimate.  See ODT story.


Rebecca Rice. Photo by @kjhallum

In ‘“My dear Hooker”: the botanical landscape in colonial New Zealand’, Rebecca Rice (Te Papa) explored the New Zealand “flower painting” of Georgina Hetley and Sarah Featon in the late nineteenth century, whose botanical work was popular but largely unsupported by the scientific world overseen by the likes of Sir James Hector in New Zealand, and Sir Joseph Hooker in the UK.  Rebecca’s paper stressed the need to acknowledge women’s contribution to science in New Zealand.


Linda Tyler (University of Auckland) looked at the John Buchanan, who worked with Hector at the Colonial Museum, his botanical draughtsmanship and his extensive (if poorly labelled) collections of botanical specimens.  Indeed the sending of material to the UK assisted in Buchanan’s ambitions to be recognised as a botanist of note.


It was the practice of medical schools to create collections students could learn from; Otago, which established its first Chair of Physiology and Anatomy in 1874 is no exception. Chris Smith (University of Otago) gave a fascinating account of the collections of Otago’s Anatomy Museum, its many specimens of flesh, organs and bones, and models constructed from plaster, wax or papier mache.  Early professors, interested in racial difference, sent their medical students out to scour burial sites and other places for Māori human remains; the Museum’s koiwi Māori collection is now in the process of being returned to local iwi.


Justine Olsen. Photo by @AWanhalla

Justine Olsen (Te Papa) discussed the cabinetmaking objects produced by Anton Seuffert and Johann Levien from the 1850 to the 1880s.  Their high-quality pieces featured in international and colonial expositions as examples of New Zealand craftsmanship while showing off the  various New Zealand woods. Seuffert collaborated with the carver Ferdinand Teutenberg to produce items sought-after by New Zealand’s elite.  Featuring designs influenced by Ferdinand Hochstetter, their work points to New Zealand’s German network of the late nineteenth century.

Simon Ville. Photo @OtagoBallantyne

The first day was brought to a close with the keynote of Simon Ville (University of Wollongong), ‘The exchange, finance and logistics of natural history: a global trade like no other?’  Simon is part of an inter-disciplinary team focussing on the collection practices in the nineteenth century of the MacLeay Museum and the Australian Museum.  The accumulation of dead creatures (or parts of them), involved purchases from collectors and trading firms, exchanges between institutions, financing field collections, or donations, all of which could be problematic.  He argued that the commerce in “natural history” does not appear to adhere to the ideal conditions for trade and exchange, but despite its difficulties still managed to survive.


David Gaimster (Auckland War Memorial Museum) began the second day with ‘Fitting the colonial museum dashboard? Curatorial agency, civic action and identity building at the Auckland Museum (1852-1917)’ on the early days of the institution that he is responsible for.  David explored the synergies of civic action of local Aucklanders to found their museum with the imperial networks that enabled it, and how the “successive intentions” of curators shaped its practice and exhibitions.  In particular, serious scientific enquiry and disciplinary presentations sat at the edge of the museum’s other aim, to amuse or educate the wider public.  More so than some other countries, New Zealand museums collected artefacts from its indigenous people, a process that Māori themselves, in some part, were able to control.


Rosi Crane (CRoCC, Otago Museum) turned to the work of the first three curators of the Otago Museum with ‘What were they thinking? Tracing the traces of scientific thought through the Museum collections (1868-1939)’.  Unlike other museums, the Otago Museum was part of the university, with the early curators, Frederick Hutton, Thomas Jeffery Parker and William Benham mixing academic teaching roles with building and maintaining their collections. Rosi traced their scientific interests, as the museum expanded.  All three were ardent evolutionists, but felt compelled at times not to advertise the fact in their museum displays.


Most of the conference attendees were probably unaware of the influence of Korean art in New Zealand ceramics.  While Chinese and Japanese ceramics are often seen as pioneering, Korean art is just as significant, and the three nations influenced each other over many centuries.  Grace Lai (Auckland War Memorial Museum), in ‘Inequality of knowledge: reinvestigating the influences of Auckland Studio Pottery through the lens of Korean ceramics’, discussed the extensive collection of Korean pottery held by the Auckland Museum, and how, after the opening of the Hall of Asian Arts in 1969, this influenced Auckland’s potters.


The burning bush (Exodus 3) has been an enduring symbol for Scottish Presbyterianism from the 1600s, and was subsequently exported to New Zealand with the Free Church migrants in 1848. Steve Taylor (Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership) explored this theme in ‘The symbol of the burning bush as an object in global exchange and local adaptation’.  The image appears in books and bookmarks, and has even in flower beds, and portrayed through the Scottish saltire forms the New Zealand church’s current logo.  Steve elaborated on how the Scottish symbol had been reframed and transformed through culture, such as in the blue, frangipani-graced burning bush stained glass window at St Johns Papatoetoe, reflecting the churches links to the Pacific Ocean and its peoples, and the stylized “glowing vine” of Te Aka Puaho, the Māori Presbyterian Synod.


Kane Fleury (Otago Museum) expounded on the Museum’s extensive Lepidoptera collection in ‘Books and drawers full of moths’, much of it the work of the still-living collector, Brian Patrick.  The museum has been involved in several collaborate moth-related projects: Mothnet, “citizen science” working with school children to collect and report on the moth populations, and the production of guides of New Zealand moths both in English and te reo Māori and the digitisation of the Museum’s extensive moth collections.  By comparing the notes and collection data of historic moth collection with more current data, the Museum is helping to understand how environmental change is affecting our rich moth fauna.


Rachel Wesley. Photo by @historyobjects

The mauri of places and resources were often embodied in kōhatu (stones) that maintained and safeguarded their wellbeing.  This, of course has implications for museums that hold such taoka, but that might also produce their own embodiments of mauri.  Rachel Wesley (Otago Museum) explored this kaupapa in ‘Kōhatu Mauri: an exercise in practice across cultures’, discussing how the Museum had created its own kōhatu mauri from within its collections.  Unlike traditional iterations, whose tapu might preclude physical contact, the modern kōhatu are placed to be touched by museum visitors.  Rachel explored the implications of this, and the conflicting values and preservation practices of the museum and mātauraka Māori, and how an accessioned item that ordinarily is only for viewing might be recontextualised (and de-accessioned), changing from mere geological artefact to a taoka with new meanings.


Museum at Papawai. Photo by @AWanhalla

Conal McCarthy (Victoria University of Wellington) was given the hard task in his keynote, ‘From curio to taonga: 150 years of museum histories, theories and politics’ to wrap up the conference, of drawing in the preceding talks, while also giving his take on New Zealand’s museums’ own pasts, presents and futures.  Conal, acknowledging that museums were part of a wider colonial culture, looked at how museums had interacted with tāngata whenua and their culture, again stressing that Māori had often been involved in how Māori material might be exhibited.  He also noted that Māori had sometimes had their own museums, such as the Kotahitanga base at Papawai, and that individuals such as Ngata and Buck through their involvement with ethnology, museums and heritage, had been prominent in how Māori culture might be seen.  But New Zealand had now come to a time when museums needed to find new ways to engage with indigenous peoples, in particular through employing whakapapa as a practical ontology for the future.


The conference had a great buzz, with the single-stream format, a diversity of topics, and the generous coffee breaks allowing the sixty-odd people who attended to engage in many fruitful exchanges.  Many congratulations to the organiser, Rosi Crane, on hosting such a fun and productive conference. She is now investigating how some of these presentations may be converted into published research outputs.



Two MA scholarships offered

Are you interested in New Zealand history? Are you looking for scholarship funding? If you have a BA (hons) first class in History or Māori Studies then you’re in luck. Two Centre members, Michael Stevens and Angela Wanhalla, are seeking applicants for MA scholarships attached to their respective Royal Society of New Zealand research projects. See the details below for further information.


MA Scholarship in New Zealand History

History or background of award

The scholarship is attached to a Rutherford Discovery Fellowship project led by Dr. Angela Wanhalla (Department of History and Art History, University of Otago) on ‘The Politics of Intimacy in New Zealand History’, and funded by the Royal Society of New Zealand.

Purpose of award

Applications are invited from suitably qualified students interested in working on an aspect of private life and the law, particularly associated with the governance and control of marriage in New Zealand, during the nineteenth and/or twentieth centuries. Potential areas of investigation include, but are not limited to: marital violence; bigamy; arranged marriage; customary marriage and the law; cross-cultural relationships and the law; Māori marriage; co-habitation; marital property.

Selection criteria

The successful applicant will have a BA honours (first class), or equivalent in History. A background in New Zealand history is preferred.

Number of awards offered



$16,000 stipend, plus tuition fees

Tenure of award

One year, or two years part-time.

Start date:

You may begin the thesis at any stage during 2015, or by 1 July 2016 at the latest.

Further Information

Please send a cover letter, a copy of your academic record, a thesis proposal, and a sample piece of writing to Angela Wanhalla ( by 22 June.



MA Scholarship in New Zealand History

History or background of award

The scholarship is attached to a Marsden Fast-Start project led by Dr. Michael Stevens (Department of History and Art History, University of Otago) entitled ‘Between Local and Global: A World History of Bluff’, which is funded by the Royal Society of New Zealand.

Purpose of award

Applications are invited from suitably qualified students interested in working on an aspect of maritime history, ideally with a focus on southern New Zealand and/or with a strong Māori focus, during the nineteenth and/or twentieth centuries. Potential areas of investigation include, but are not limited to: cargo handling; port development (e.g. reclamation; pilotage; built environment); boat-building; commercial fishing; crew culture; marriage patterns; mahinga kai; gendered occupations; intergenerational family businesses; associational culture; religion; class conflict (e.g. strikes and lockouts).

Selection criteria

The successful applicant will have a BA honours (first class) or equivalent, in History or Māori Studies. A background in New Zealand history is strongly preferred.

Number of awards offered



$16,000 stipend (paid in monthly installments), plus tuition fees.

Tenure of award

One year.

Start date:

You may begin the thesis during any stage of 2015, or by 1 March 2016 at the latest.

Further Information

Please send a cover letter, a copy of your academic record, a thesis proposal, and a sample piece of writing to Michael Stevens ( by 22 June.


Caribbean Intellectual History

On Thursday 14 May the Centre for Research on Colonial Culture is running a research seminar. The speaker is Dr Aaron Kamugisha who teaches cultural studies, the history of political thought & intellectual history at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill. His recent publications include Caribbean Political Thought: The Colonial State to Caribbean Internationalisms (Kingston: Ian Randle, 2013), an edited collection Caribbean Political Thought: Theories of the Post-Colonial State (Kingston: Ian Randle, 2013); and another collection co-edited with Yanique Hume, Caribbean Cultural Thought: From Plantation to Diaspora (Kingston: Ian Randle, 2013).

Dr. Kamugisha’s talk is titled “The Caribbean’s Intellectual History Through Culture” and will be held at 1pm in 2N8 in the History Department’s Seminar Room.

All are welcome.

“Tino Rangatiratanga: a Constitutional Problem Child?”

Lachy Paterson, “Tino Rangatiratanga: a Constitutional Problem Child?”

This is the text of a presentation given at Centre for Research on Colonial Culture event, Colonial Origins of New Zealand Government and Politics, Dunedin, 8 March 2013.


The Treaty of Waitangi is important, perhaps central, to current discussion on New Zealand’s constitution.  The government established the Constitutional Advisory Panel largely at the instigation of the Māori Party, who in their own press release squarely saw the review in terms of the Treaty.[1]

Now in 2011, we have a great opportunity to make good on that invitation, to breathe new life into the call from the people to honour the Treaty.  

‘On December 8, both parties announced a wide-ranging review to include matters such as the size of Parliament, the length of the electoral term, Māori representation, the role of the Treaty and whether New Zealand needs a written constitution.

The “role of the Treaty” sits within the Panel’s Terms of Reference, and the Treaty features prominently in the panel’s publication, The Conversation So Far.[2]  In addition it is the role that the Treaty might play in our country’s constitutional future that is most contentious.   For example, ‘in response to the Maori Party’s plan to replace our constitution with one based on the Treaty of Waitangi to give the tribal elite supreme power in New Zealand’ the right-wing New Zealand Centre for Political Research set up its own Independent Constitutional Review of politicians and academics.  Without appearing to have consulted with anyone, this body has rejected the Treaty and its principles out of hand.[3]

What is not being talked about, yet is surely implicit, is what is so attractive, or so noxious about the Treaty and its place within the constitution, the concept of “tino rangatiratanga”, and what constitutional rights Māori might get that others will not, and how will these rights might impinge on others.   Despite the Treaty’s prominence in The Conversation So Far, including five pages specifically to its role, the only attempt to define rangatiratanga that I can find is that the Treaty gave chiefs ‘absolute authority for chiefs (or rangatira) to be chiefs and to hold sway in their territories’. The document also states that ‘The Waitangi Tribunal is responsible for defining what the Treaty means in a modern context’, something that actually appears beyond the scope of the Treaty of Waitangi Act.[4]  In the event of a written constitution, I would imagine, for both judicial and political reasons, that courts will be tasked with defining rangatiratanga rights rather than the Tribunal.

As we all know, there are differences between the English-language Treaty of Waitangi and the Māori-language Te Tiriti o Waitangi.  To a large extent, current academic assumptions of Te Tiriti stem from Ruth Ross’s essay in 1972 which suggests that Māori saw kāwanatanga (government) as somewhat limited in scope, certainly not the sovereignty ceded in the Treaty, and that the guarantee of tino rangatiratanga was significantly more than mere ownership of land and possessions.[5] Ross’s observations were not necessarily new: Māori had been saying this at least a century earlier, and New Zealand’s first Chief Justice, Sir William Martin, before that.  Ross’s interpretation happened to emerge concurrently with educated urban Māori asserting their rights and grievances, and has since fostered a new Treaty orthodoxy, at least as lip service, within church, state, and academia.  However, notwithstanding the largely homogeneous nature of this public “treaty discourse”, there is no real consensus on what rangatiratanga might actually mean in practice, to Māori, or to Pākehā.[6]   What Pākehā may have to give up, to placate the unknown of rangatiratanga, remains for them, a continuing site of unease.   Rangatiratanga is obviously not a straightforward concept.  Nor was it so during New Zealand’s colonial past.  The point of this discussion is to investigate the term, rangatiratanga, within historical contexts.   Hopefully this will stimulate some debate.  What did rangatiratanga actually mean during New Zealand’s colonial past, and why might this be relevant for the panel.

Rangatiratanga is a derived noun: rangatira means chief or chiefly, while rangatiratanga denotes abstract qualities, such as, according to the Williams Dictionary ‘evidence of breeding and greatness’.   Given that Māori society was hierarchical, and that superior whakapapa (or breeding) gave one greater standing and mana (power and authority), rangatiratanga was thus a positive attribute.  Lyndsay Head, sifting through Ngā Mahi a ngā Tupuna, a volume of Māori traditions, claims that mana related only to religious contexts, and that rangatiratanga was reserved for worthy behaviour rather than political power. Head also asserts that rangatiratanga was a Pākehā construction, a ‘semantic improvisation’ to translate the new concepts of power and authority Māori were encountering, and that ‘it fitted the new world better than the old, hence its scarcity in accounts of the former.’[7]

When Pākehā, such as missionaries, sought to introduce words for new items or concepts into Māori, they sometimes employ loanwords, such as Paipera for Bible, hoari for sword, Hīhā for Caesar.   However, for more metaphysical concepts, they often borrowed Māori words with a similar meaning.   They added an additional specific definition, the subtleties of which they would then need to explain to Māori.   Thus atua (spiritual entity) and tapu (restricted) have pre-contact meanings, but also gained Christian definitions.  When missionaries were looking for a term to translate “kingdom” (or similar terms) they often used rangatiratanga, building on its attributes of chiefliness, hierarchy and status.  The word appears over 200 times in the Māori Bible, mostly in the New Testament where it is commonly used for the higher kingdom of God, although it was also used to used to define more earthly realms.  The word kīngitanga was also used for kingdom, although mostly in the Old Testament.    The transfer of rangatiratanga for kingdom from spiritual to secular can be seen in this 1831 land deed, where the United Kingdom is described in terms of  rangatiratanga.[8]

…na taua Kirepeti Mea kaihanga kaipuke o te kainga i huaina ko Pitahere, i Koterani no nga rangatiratanga huihui o Piritane Nui, a Airirani.

“…whereas the said Gilbert Mair shipbuilder by trade, of and from the town or place called Perhead of Scotland in and of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland…”

But what of political authority?  In these two examples from the 1840s, we can see Māori using rangatiratanga in terms of abstract political power.  This goes beyond mere personal qualities, even if – according to Head – this had not been the case in pre-contact times.[9]

…engari au e rima rau oku tangata i roto i toku rangatiratanga.

[…but I have 500 men within my chieftainship.]

…e kore ahau e hui i toku rangatiratanga ki to nga tangata o Wairarapa.

[…I will not associate my chieftainship with that of the people of Wairarapa.] 

Given the context of the Māori scriptural lexicon of both heavenly and earthly kingdom, it is perhaps not surprising that missionaries, when translating the Northern chiefs’ 1835 Declaration of Independence, rendered the word ‘independence’, that of Māori chiefs, as ‘rangatiratanga’, and ‘all sovereign power and authority’ with ‘kīngitanga’ and ‘mana’.  These were logical extensions of the Biblical lexicon.  What is less clear is why missionaries, five years later, when translating the Treaty of Waitangi by which Britain annexed New Zealand, used rangatiratanga (with the intensifier tino) to define mere land possession in the second article.  Head suggests that it was to downplay the fears of Northern chiefs about losing their lands.

However, as seen in the old land deed below, where missionaries, buying land just one month before the Treaty was signed, included the words mana and rangatiratanga in the Māori-language version of the deed to reinforce the nature of the transfer.[10]

…kua oti te tuku e matou e Panakareao ma ki te Hahi Mihanare tetahi wahi wenua oti tonu atu me nga rakau katoa me nga aha noa me nga aha noa katoa e tupu ana i taua wenua me nga mea katoa o raro i taua wenua, me te rangatiratanga me te mana i runga i taua wenua.

[…that I Noble Panakareao and tribe have sold to the Church Missionary Society a piece of land forever, trees and everything else that grows on it and all things below it.” [and the rangatiratanga and mana on that land.]]

Clearly rangatiratanga could also refer to land ownership.

Whatever the Māori understanding of the Treaty was, chiefs who signed thought that the rangatiratanga of their lands and taonga [valued possessions] was guaranteed, and Governor-to-be Hobson considered, once sufficient signed copies of the Treaty were back, that the Crown had gained sovereignty.   However, Hobson was hardly in control.  While Māori authority was real in 1840 – however it was defined –Crown sovereignty was liminal at best.  The government sought to realise its sovereignty, which could only come at the expense of rangatiratanga.  I think that this is signalled in the Treaty, where it talks not of rangatiratanga per se, but transitively; the rangatiratanga of things, including land.  The Treaty’s second article also states that Māori who desired could sell their land to the Queen.   This was one way that Crown control could be extended over the country, and by implication, rangatiratanga diminished.

In the two decades after the signing of the Treaty, the term rangatiratanga for the most part is absent from both governmental and recorded Māori discussions on the nature of institutional power, with the term mana – specifically “te mana o te Kuīni”, [the Queen’s mana] the preferred term.  Rangatiratanga, however, developed new meanings in the colonial setting.  It was being used to define Pākehā customs, and concepts such as civilisation, prosperity, and knowledge – all things that both missionaries and officials thought Māori should aspire to.   The government did not use the term to define chiefly authority: it was proactive in directing all discourse on power, including the Treaty, and perhaps did not want to cloud the desired Māori acquiescence to Crown sovereignty with any notions of chiefly rule. For example, when Governor Browne reiterated the [government’s] principles of the Treaty to assembled chiefs at the Kohimarama Conference in 1860, the Māori re-translation of the second article avoided rangatiratanga completely, and his speech asserted that Māori ‘completely gave up to the Queen of England all the processes and mana of government that they all had, or that one or another of them had, and all things like that which they are thought/said to have’.[11]  Browne also threatened that Māori who did not align with the Crown would lose the Treaty’s guarantees.   In effect, it was the Crown of the 1860s that was holding up the Treaty – its interpretation – against any ideas of Māori autonomy.

Some Māori paid lip service to this colonial discourse, but those who did not – such as the Kīngitanga of the 1860s, and its sympathizers  – saw the Treaty as a fraud.  Its own newspaper, Te Hokioi, expressly rejected the Treaty, first because many chiefs hadn’t signed it, and second because those who had signed had been duped.  It was a ‘covenant of the blind’.[12] The Kīngitanga defined its authority in terms of mana, in effect sovereignty, relating to land as yet unsold.[13]

…koia ra tenei me tu te mana o kingi potatau ki runga o nga wahi o Nui tireni e mau nei ki a tatou, me tu te mana o kuini ki runga i nga wahi kua riro atu ki a ia… 

[…it is this, let the mana of King Pōtatau stand on the parts of New Zealand that we still hold, and let the mana of the Queen stand on the parts that she has obtained…]

It was in the 1870s, the early post-war period that what might be deemed a modern treaty discourse emerged, in which rangatiratanga was posited as something more than a guarantee of land ownership.  This can be seen in the pages of the Māori newspaper, Te Wananga, which rendered rangatiratanga within its Treaty translations as both “dominion” and “the chieftainship”.[14] This was also the period when the Repudiation Movement was challenging some very dodgy land sales through the courts, and local Māori rūnanga were attempting to take control of decisions over land lest they be left to the Pākehā-controlled Native Land Court.  Its successor, the Kotahitanga also engaged in these discourses.  I imagine that the immediate post-wars period, when some of the naked realities of colonisation became apparent to Māori, that a Māori re-reading of the Tiriti became particularly attractive.   This interpretation may have troubled the government, which produced a new translation of the English version in 1869.   Sovereignty, formerly “kāwanatanga”, became “mana” and “rangatiratanga”, and the Article 2 guarantees, formerly “rangatiratanga”, were downgraded to mere “tūturutanga” (fixedness) of their lands.[15]

Ultimately the Treaty was a stick and carrot with which the government tried to impose Crown sovereignty up until the early 1860s.  It was only useful to the government in the early stages of asserting its power, and once it had decided that coercion was the method to solve its problems, the Treaty lost its relevance to the Crown.   We see this in 1877, when Māori were claiming rights in court based on Article 2, that Chief Justice, Sir James Prendergast, determined that the Treaty was “worthless” and a legal “nullity”.[16]

The Kīngitanga and the Crown made peace in 1882.  In 1862 the movement had suggested that the Treaty was a fraud, and did not apply to those who did not sign it.  After 1882, the Kīngitanga, like the Kotahitanga, promulgated a Tiriti-inclusive argument.  This was not expressed in terms of rangatiratanga, but of mana, mana motuhake (or separate authority).   However, the Kīngitanga now justified that mana on the basis of Treaty guarantees, rather than that the Treaty did not apply to them.


Te Paki o Matariki, Kīngitanga newspaper

The dynamic nature of Māori opinion can be seen too in the words of Rēnata Kawepō of Ngāti Kahungunu.  In 1860, he was sympathetic to the Kīngitanga and troubled by the Crown’s aggression in the first Taranaki War.  For this reason he describes the Treaty as having failed.[17]

Inahoki kua he ano te Tiriti o Waitangi, i kiia ra hoki ko taua tiriti he Kawenata kei tikina mai e etahi iwi ke, te tae mai aua iwi kino ki te patu i a matou.  Ka puta tonu mai i roto i a koutou i te iwi naana taua Kawenata nei te patu i a matou.

[Moreover, the Treaty of Waitangi has failed.  That Treaty is said to be a Covenant lest [we] be taken by some foreign peoples. Those bad people did not come to attack us.  The attack on us came from among you, the people who made that Covenant.]

However, in the following decade, due to the threat of the Pai Mārire movement to his chiefly position, Kawepō had re-aligned himself to the Crown and fought as their ally.  By the 1870s, he was not totally content with the Crown’s actions, but saw his chiefly position best protected by the Treaty.[18]

Tenei toku kupu ki a koe, e takoto nui tonu ana taku mana, i tapiritia nei e te kupu a Te Kuini, ara, e tona Tiriti i Waitangi; e ki nei, ki au ano te mana o toku whenua.

This is my word to you, my mana, which was confirmed by [the Queen’s word, that is] the Treaty of Waitangi, still remains in force.  The Treaty of Waitangi, which declared that the mana of my land should remain with me.

However, during this last quarter of the nineteenth century, despite the shift towards Māori viewing the Treaty as the bulwark of their rights, they tended not to use the term rangatiratanga in the context of these Treaty rights.  Nearly always, the term used was mana.    For example, the Repudiationist Hēnare Matua used mana to define land rights in 1876.[19]

Na te Tiriti o Waitangi i mana ai ta tatou pupuri i o tatou whenua, i mana ai nga Kooti, me nga mokete.  Mei kore te Tiriti i Waitangi, kua penatia tatou me nga motu o te Ao nei.

[It was through the Treaty of Waitangi that our holding of our lands was empowered [mana] and that Courts and mortgages were empowered.  If it were not for the Treaty of Waitangi, we would have been like other countries in the world’.]

A correspondent to Te Wananga also wrote, ‘You heard the word within the Treaty at Waitangi, that is, that the mana of the land should be left to the Māori people.’[20]

Why did Māori not use the term rangatiratanga to assert these rights?  In the post-wars period, the government considered that it was gaining the upper hand. Māori were increasingly being pushed to the margins politically, and swamped demographically by immigration.  Less concerned about civilisation or social customs, the Crown increasingly used rangatiratanga in its own discourses to Māori in the context of governmental power.  The United Kingdom became “te Rangatiratanga Kotahi”, and the Queen’s sovereignty as “te rangatiratanga o te Kuini”.[21] The Crown continued to usurp the term in the services of colonisation, and even Te Wananga, a Māori-controlled newspaper, used rangatiratanga in the context of colonial or imperial power.  Even the Kotahitanga, whose full name was “Te Kotahitanga o te Tiriti o Waitangi” based its right to exist, in its discourses of the 1890s, on tribal mana rather than rangatiratanga.

Not all post-wars Māori adhered to a Tiriti discourse.  For example, James Carroll of Ngāti Kahungunu was a politician who, as can be seen in this discussion he had with Ngāti Tūwharetoa ariki, te Heuheu Tūkino V, promulgated a more positivist legal interpretation of the Treaty.[22]

124. . . .Te Heuheu: Ka korero atu au i taku ake whakaaro. Ae; kua takahia te wahi tuatahi o te rarangi tuarua o te tiriti.

125. Hon. Timi Kara: I peheatia te takahi?

Te Heuheu: Koia tenei, kaore ano ona tikanga i whakatutukitia. Ko nga mana mo nga Maori i whakatuturutia nei e taua rarangi kaore ano i hoatu ki a ratou.

126. Hon. Timi Kara: Kaore ano koia i hoatu nga taitara o o ratou whenua ki a ratou?

 – – –

124. … [te Heuheu] I will give my own opinion.  Yes; the first provisions of the second article  of the treaty have been broken.

125.  [Carroll] How?

[te Heuheu] It has been trampled on in this way: it was never given effect to.  The rights which that article assures to the Natives have never been given to them.

126. [Carroll] Have they not got titles to their lands?

Carroll was a mentor to Āpirana Ngata, leader of the Young Māori Party. This new movement saw Māori society as in need of reform to improve it socially, materially and spiritually.  Ngata didn’t see this as achievable through striving for self-determination, but through better education and engagement with the parliamentary processes.[23] In 1922 Ngata published a series of articles on the Treaty in Te Toa Takitini in which he stated that Māori who sought mana Māori motuhake through Article 2 were mistaken.  Sovereignty had been ceded to the Crown through Article 1, and rangatiratanga pertained to property ownership.[24]

Ka puta nga wawata a nga Ropu Maori ki te mana Maori motuhake, ahakoa kiia he Kotahitanga, he Kauhanganui, he Paremata Maori he aha ranei te ingoa, e hoki ana aua wawata ki tenei upoko o te Tiriti. Otira na te pohehe i pera ai. Ara kei te mana o te Maori kua tapaetia atu e te Upoko Tuatahi o te Tiriti mo ake tonu atu.

[Various Māori groups, whether Kotahitanga, Kauhanganui, Māori Parliament or some other name, have yearned for separate Māori authority and those dreams go back to this [second] article of the Treaty.  But it is from mistakenness that they think so, because the mana of the Māori people has been covered over by the First Article of the Treaty forever more.]

The Young Maori Party saw the Māori race as in danger of extinction, not just culturally but as an actual people and pragmatism was the only way to save it.  In contrast, the religious and political leader, Tahupōtiki Rātana, who also sought to save the Māori people, regarded the Treaty of Waitangi as of pivotal importance to his mission.

So what does this mean for the Constitutional Review?  Unfortunately, most publically espoused positions fall into two opposing poles.  On one side are those who wish to avoid addressing the Treaty.  At least, they are happy to accept the Treaty having given the Crown sovereignty, but not that rangatiratanga ascribes any special rights to Māori.  The New Zealand Centre for Political Research and its own Independent Constitutional Review fit this bill.  On the other hand, the Crown, churches, iwi and many academics all believe that the Treaty is of fundamental importance to modern New Zealand society. For example, church and union groups – non-state agencies – still see a need for a ‘Tiriti partnership relationship’.[25]   Some have described the Treaty as “sacred”, or as one Presbyterian minister told his congregation, a “secular scripture”.[26] Although many agree on the importance of rangatiratanga, there can be quite marked differences in interpretation.  For example, Network Waitangi assert that the term equates with ‘the continuance of Maori authority and sovereignty’[27] whereas recent statements from the judiciary or Waitangi Tribunal talk more of resource management, or woolier terms, such as ‘a claim to an ongoing distinctive existence as a people’,[28] or ‘self-management’ or ‘self-regulation’,[29] or ‘full authority status and prestige with regard to [Maori] possessions and interests’.[30] In the case of the Mangonui Sewerage Report, rangatiratanga is the right to be consulted.[31]

The Treaty is important to the constitution.  It is a mechanism through which Māori can engage collectively with the state.  However, the Treaty’s past is far less cut-and-dried than it is sometimes portrayed. The historian can point this out, but it is for other professions to determine political and legal truths for today.  However, there are four key points from this talk that I would like to stress.

First, that rangatiratanga has meanings outside of the Treaty, including notions of prosperity and civilisation, and even God’s heavenly kingdom.

Second that it was largely absent from Treaty discourses, or merely implied, for most of the nineteenth century.  What’s now expressed as rangatiratanga was more commonly known as mana.  Its other meanings, and the Crown’s appropriation to define colonial rule, meant that it was not often used to define Māori treaty rights.  However, this not mean those rights did not exist.

My third point is that during the colonial period Māori attitudes and opinion towards the Treaty, and by implication rangatiratanga, had more to do with the pragmatics of politics than enduring principles.  Some Māori barely considered the Treaty before the 1860s.  In 1860, the Governor asserted the Queen’s sovereignty as the Crown’s treaty right, and threatened the removal of Treaty guarantees from Māori who did not accept this.  Perhaps understandably the Kīngitanga, attempting to create a Māori state, rejected the Treaty.   In the post-wars period, as the state endeavoured to further impose its power over Māori, movements such as the Kotahitanga and the Kīngitanga promoted the Treaty as the bastion of their rights.  In the early twentieth century Ngata, seeing more benefit for Māori through working within state institutions, rejected the tino rangatiratanga discourse and asserted Crown sovereignty.

My fourth and final point is, when determining constitutional niceties for the twenty-first century, it does not hurt to remember the messiness of the past.



[1] Māori Party Press Release, Constitutional courage, constitutional change, January 2011,

[2]Constitutional Review Panel, New Zealand’s Constitution: The Conversation So Far, September 2012.

[3] ;

[4]The Conversation So Far, p.8.

[5] Ruth Ross. ‘The Treaty of Waitangi: Texts and Interpretations’, New Zealand Journal of History, 6, 2, 1972, pp.129-157.

[6]Macalister, John. 2008. ‘Tracking Changes in Familiarity with Borrowings from te Reo Māori.’ Te Reo 51, p. 85.

[7] Lyndsay Head ‘The Pursuit of Modernity in Maori Society: The Conceptual Bases of Citizenship in the Early Colonial Period’ in Andrew Sharp & Paul McHugh (eds) Histories, Power and Loss: Uses of the Past – A New Zealand Commentary Wellington: Bridget Williams Books, 2001, pp. 106-7.

[8] H. Hanson Turton, Maori Deeds of Old Private Land Purchases in New Zealand from the Year 1815 to 1840, with Pre-Emptive and Other Claims, Wellington: Government Printer, 1882, pp. 76, 78.

[9] Letter from Kawana Hakeke to McLean, Aug 1848.   Alexander Turnbull Library, MS-Papers-0032-0672C-06. Object #1031502; Letter from Hakaraia Te Rangiwakatakaura, Te Retimana to Te Kepa and Te Pere, 28 Nov 1848. Alexander Turnbull Library, MS-Papers-0032-0672E-08. Object #1031091.

[10] H. Hanson Turton, Maori Deeds of Old Private Land Purchases in New Zealand from the Year 1815 to 1840, with Pre-Emptive and Other Claims, Wellington: Government Printer, 1882, p.3.

[11] TKM 14/7/1860: 6.   Translation of Māori text.  ‘…tino tukua rawatia ana e ratou ki te Kuini o Ingarangi nga tikanga me nga mana Kawanatanga katoa i a ratou katoa, i tenei i tenei ranei o ratou, me nga pera katoa e meinga kei a ratou.’

[12] Te Hokioi, 15/2/1862: 2.

[13] Te Hokioi, 8/12/1862: 2.

[14] Te Wananga, 22/1/1876 p.38; 3/6/1876, p.215.

[15] Appendix to the Journal of the Legislative Council, 1869, p. 68.

[16] Wi Parata v Bishop of Wellington (1877) 3 NZ Jur (NS) 72 (SC).

[17] Rēnata Kawepō.  ‘Letter Answering the Letter of Thomas Fitzgerald, The Superintendent of Napier, H.B.  Pā Whakairo, February 1861.’  Folios 30 & 31, McDonnell Papers, MS-Papers-0150 [ATL].

[18] Rēnata Kawepō, addressing Sir George Grey. 15/1/1877.  Te Wananga, 29/1/1877, pp.507, 510.

[19] Te Wananga, 15/4/1876: 167.

[20] Te Wananga, 21/2/1876: 77.

[21] Te Waka Maori o Niu Tirani, 15/12/1874: 311; 29/12/1874: 322)

[22] Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives, 1898 Session I, I-03a.

[23] In 1897 he stated that people who knew Māori, ‘would not sympathise with the leaders of the [Kotahitanga] movement in their efforts to secure Home Rule and the power to legislate and administer Native Lands. The time would be better spent in agitating for the increase in Maori representation in Parliament…’A.T. Ngata ‘Maori Politics and Our Relation Thereto’, in Papers and Addresses read Before the First Conference of the Te Aute College Students Association, February, 1897 (Gisborne: Herald Office, 1897) p.34

[24] Te Toa Takitini, 1/6/1922, p.6.

[25] Example from Tertiary Education Union: Te Hautū Kahurangi o Aotearoa, Te Tiriti o Waitangi – TEU Policy,, Updated 8 December, 2011.

[26] Allan Davidson, Waitangi Day, 2011. The Community of St Luke, Accessed 18 March, 2014.

[27] Network Waitangi, Treaty of Waitangi: Questions and Answers, 4th revised edition, (Christchurch: Network Waitangi, 2012), p.12.

[28] Janine Hayward, “Principles of the Treaty of Waitangi”, appendix to the National Overview. (Taiaroa v the Minister of Justice (1994), p. 482.

[29] Hayward (Manukau Report, p.486; Ngawha Geothermal Resources Report, p.492)

[30] Hayward (Manukau Report, p.486.)

[31] Hayward, p.492.

CRoCC in the news

Tony Ballantyne was interviewed about the Centre for Research on Colonial Culture and our forthcoming Colonial Objects Conference recently. Read the story here.


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