Posted by: annie | July 14, 2010

A Little History

Maori have been in New Zealand since about the 10th century. One legend tells of Chief Kupe making his way from the original homeland of Hawaiki in a canoe. Hawaiki is considered the mythical homeland of all Maori people, it is referred to in many songs and stories (it may be more of a spiritual place rather than physical).   Kupe landed somewhere around Wellington and said, “He ao, he aotea he aotearoa” (It is a cloud ..a white cloud .. a long white cloud).  This is how New Zealand got its Maori name of Aeoteroa.  The legend continues with the first mass arrival of Polynesians in 1350 from East Polynesia in what is referred to as the Great Fleet of canoes.  Maori continued voyages to New Zealand and settled mostly on the east coast.  Personally, I like this story: (taken from here:

“Another of the traditions tells us that Paikea came on the back of a whale, or even that our ancestor Paikea was the whale. While this may seem too fabulous to be believed, it should be remembered that this legendary journey replicates exactly the annual migration of the whale from out in the Pacific Ocean to the breeding and feeding grounds of Aotearoa/New Zealand.

I have been told of first-hand experience by an expert observer how a pod of migratory whales was seen journeying through rough seas. The lead was taken by the two biggest whales forging ahead side by side, crashing through the rough waters; and close behind them in the safety of the much smoother seas created by the lead pair, travelled the rest of the pod including the young.

Sceptics have asserted, and continue to assert, that our human ancestors could not have had foreknowledge of the existence and location of Aotearoa/New Zealand before they set out. Perhaps so, but who can deny that our fellow creatures did not have that knowledge, and that it is from them that we learned of Aotearoa.

Consider also, the close affinity of our ancestors with the whole of the Creation; their relationship with the Earth and the skies, the lands and the seas, as well as with all the creatures of the Earth. A people living in and with Nature, rather than against Nature, as we do in these modern times. Who is to say that they did not also learn of far-away Aotearoa from the whispering of the winds, and the murmuring of the tides; from the voices of the Earth herself.”

However Maori arrived, they were here on their own until the Dutch explorer Abel Talsman landed in 1642. Not much came of that, he documented the contact and then was off (maybe scared off).  It was in 1769 when British explorer James Cook arrived at the Bay of Islands that everything changed for Maori. By 1779, the British East India Company had extended their charter to include New Zealand.  After Australia was settled, whalers, sealers and explorers began to use New Zealand as a base.   Around 1800, the missionaries and traders began to arrive.

The Treaty of Waitangi is the founding document of New Zealand.  In 1840, it was signed by a number of  Maori Chiefs (not all, there were many Maori iwi (tribes) all over the country).  There were English and Maori versions of this Treaty which, due to inaccuracies in translation, differ in very important ways.  The English version clearly gives the British monarchy sovereignty over New Zealand and Maori, while the Maori word used for sovereignty translates to governorship.  The Maori version further states that Maori retain “tino ringatiratanga” (self-determination). Maori chiefs thought they were retaining their power as chiefs and control over their lands and resources etc. without interference from the crown and would also benefit from English protection. The British, of course, had other ideas (colonization). This is the positive history books explanation:   “The ultimate intention of the Treaty of Waitangi, from the Crown’s perspective, was to protect Māori interests from the encroaching British settlement, to provide for British settlement and to establish a government to maintain peace and order.” There is much history I won’t get into now of the British interference, stealing of land, wars and fighting that ensued through the years since the Treaty was signed.  There has been fighting and there has been cooperation.  I’ll skip ahead  and say that these issues are still debated today as Maori continue to fight in court for the rights to their ancestral lands and waterways and ultimately for what they thought they retained when signing the Treaty: tino ringatiratanga.

Here are some pics of my visit to the Treaty grounds:

Te Whare Runanga:  this is a carved Māori meeting house erected to commemorate the centenary of the first signing of the Treaty of Waitangi. The carvings in the house were produced by the local Ngapuhi tribe, it is meant to represent all Maori tribes.


sorry so blurry. These are carvings said to represent ancestors of tribes or tribal history.

This is Ngatokimatawhaorua, a 70yr old Maori war canoe

this is a pukeko bird. isn’t it cute? It was hanging out on the treaty grounds

I wandered off the path to enjoy this view from the treaty grounds.  You can’t see them, but there were dolphins out there.

I’ll have more on my last day of the road trip later.



  1. Very nice explanations, love the whale theory!! The treaty house, boat and stories reminded me immediatly of the Alaskan tribes…..wonder if there is any connection??
    The statues are also very similiar in style!! Hmmm has me wondering.
    Love, Auntie

  2. yay more posting! well written post lady. very interesting stuff; i like the mermaid-like carving of course. the pukeko is a really pretty color.

    as you know i love the whale theory!

    what a sad history regarding the treaty. i wouldn’t put it past the british to have purposely written the maori treaty differently. there was so much less respect for indigenous peoples back then; they wouldn’t have cared.

    can’t wait for more stories!

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