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February 26, 2018 | by  | in Politics |
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He Whakaputanga o te Rangatiratanga o Nu Tireni Discussion

On Thursday 15 February at the National Library of New Zealand, He Tohu hosted a discussion on He Whakaputanga o te Rangatiratanga o Nu Tireni; the Declaration of Independence of the United Tribes of New Zealand.  He Whakaputanga  was a reaffirmation of collective Māori sovereignty that preceded the signing of Te Tiriti o Waitangi by five years.

Dame Claudia Orange, perhaps best known for her award-winning book Treaty of Waitangi (1987), opened the discussion by outlining the history of He Whakaputanga, signed 28 October 1835 by 34 Northern Chiefs, and British Resident James Busby, and Te Tiriti; first signed on 6 February 1840.

Senior Victoria Faculty of Law Lecturer Carwyn Jones, utilising the ‘transformation’ terminology of Moana Jackson, sought to situate He Whakaputanga and Te Tiriti in the context of modern constitutional debates in Aotearoa New Zealand. Jones briefly touched on the well-documented inconsistencies between Te Tiriti o Waitangi and the corresponding English text, and encouraged the audience to consider the relationship between Māori and the Crown in light of He Whakaputanga as much more layered than mere Treaty promises and obligations.

Morgan Godfrey, political writer and Victoria University Law Graduate, spoke about Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s historic trip to Waitangi earlier this year. He remarked that He Whakaputanga is largely absent from the public consciousness, and commended Ardern’s acknowledgment of the document. He also, however, suggested that she had failed to articulate that it should be seen as a central part of the constitutional arrangements of Aotearoa. Godfrey commented that He Whakaputanga is treated as the “runner-up” to Te Tiriti – or the “Bill English of constitutional documents.” He sees Ardern’s acknowledgment of He Whakaputanga as signalling a generational shift towards defining the declaration as part of our living history, in dialogue with Te Tiriti.

He Tohu will be an permanent exhibition of “Signatures that Shape New Zealand” at the National Library of New Zealand, which is facilitating public engagement with He Whakaputanga o te Rangatiratanga o Nu Tireni, Te Tiriti o Waitangi, and the Women’s Suffrage Petition of 1893.

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