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Raising their voices

A struggle through centuries

From the outset, Māori looked to the Treaty for protection against encroachments on land, fishing, and other rights. They also sought ways to participate in sharing authority in the country.

Many government measures and actions adversely affected these rights. Over and over Māori objected, but they struggled to get their voices heard – despite legal efforts, protests, and hundreds of petitions.

Here is a sample of those actions.

Enlarge image Te Wherowhero (at left)

Te Wherowhero (at left). Hand-coloured lithograph by George French Angas, 1847, National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa, Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington (Ref: PUBL-0014-44)

First appeal to the Queen

Soon after the Treaty signing, rumours circulated in Māori communities that the Treaty guarantee on Māori land ownership might be ignored. The Tainui leader Te Wherowhero, shown here, wrote an appeal to Queen Victoria in 1847, and received a reply reassuring him the Treaty would not be overturned.

Enlarge image Hirini Taiwhanga, Ngā Puhi

Hirini Taiwhanga, Ngā Puhi, a member of the House of Representatives for Northern Māori from 1887 to 1890. General Assembly Library Collection, National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa, Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington (Ref: F35MM-00098)

Petitioning the Crown

Hirini Taiwhanga tried to present Ngā Puhi concerns about the loss of land and fisheries to the Treaty partner, Queen Victoria, in person. He took an appeal to England in 1882, on behalf of Māori, that listed legislation that was 'against the principles contained in the treaty'.

Taiwhanga was told that power to resolve these issues had rested with the New Zealand government since the mid-1860s. The government, however, dismissed the appeal as lacking any foundation.

Enlarge image The King Movement mission to Britain in 1914

The King Movement mission to Britain in 1914. From left, Te Rata Mahuta Potatau Te Wherowhero (who would become the fourth king), Mita Karaka and Hori Tiro Paora. Tupu Taingakawa is seated. Auckland Museum Tāmaki Paenga Hira (Ref: B8278)

More missions

The King Movement sent missions to England in 1884 and 1914. They received similar treatment to Hirini Taiwhanga, as did the mission from the Ratana movement in 1924. These appeals asked that Treaty rights be confirmed, and sought commissions of inquiry into Māori grievances, including the land confiscations.

Enlarge image Māori gathering at Papawai

Māori gathering at Papawai. R Keedwell Collection, National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa, Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington , (Ref: F1700581/2)

Voices in parliament

From 1867, Māori were represented by four members in parliament. Their voices were swamped in the Pākehā-dominated assembly.

Numerous hui (gatherings) in the 1880s led to Māori setting up their own parliaments that met from 1892 until 1901. Their aim was kotahitanga, a unity of tribal interests to get the Treaty implemented. Their attempts to influence the Wellington parliament were unsuccessful.

The group shown here is at Papawai marae in the Wairarapa – a meeting place for kotahitanga discussions in the 1890s.

Enlarge image A Māori group in 1929 outside a typical dwelling in Māori settlements

A Māori group in 1929 outside a typical dwelling in Māori settlements. H N Whitehead Collection, National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa, Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington (Ref: G-5639-1/1)

Equal treatment?

Housing surveys in the 1930s showed that 36 per cent of Māori housing was not fit to live in. Government was slow to remedy the problems with Māori housing. Successive governments tolerated welfare payments to Māori that in some cases were not on a par with those paid to the rest of the community.

Enlarge image Apirana Ngata leading a Māori Battalion group in a haka

Apirana Ngata leading a Māori Battalion group in a haka in front of the whare rūnanga (meeting house) during the 1940 centennial celebrations at Waitangi. Making New Zealand Collection, National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa, Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington (Ref: MNZ 2746-1/2-F)

What price citizenship?

Māori fought in both world wars and supported industry with manpower in World War II.

Apirana Ngata, MP for Eastern Māori from 1905 to 1943, said that the sacrifices made during these wars were the 'price of citizenship' for Māori, since full equality had not been won.

The whare rūnanga (meeting house) at the rear of the photo was built to signify the partnership of Māori and Pākehā in the Treaty.

Enlarge image Eva Rickard with Minister of Lands Venn Young in February 1978

Eva Rickard with Minister of Lands Venn Young in February 1978. Courtesy of the New Zealand Herald

Protest pays off

During World War II, Māori land was taken for defence purposes and usually not returned. In Raglan, land taken for a military airfield was turned into a golf course after the war.

Tribal advocate Eva Rickard led her Tainui Awhiro people in a long-running series of protest actions for the land's return. They were eventually successful in 1981.

Enlarge image Te Tii marae at Waitangi, Bay of Islands

Te Tii marae at Waitangi, Bay of Islands. Photograph by Michael Cunningham, courtesy of the Northern Advocate.

Centre of debate

Te Tii marae at Waitangi has a memorial, engraved with the words of the Treaty in Māori, erected in 1881. Te Tii has been a gathering place for Treaty debate since the 1870s.

Here, protestors take to the water as Queen Elizabeth II arrives on 6 February 1990. Protest in the 1990s often reflected Māori impatience to have claims heard, grievances acknowledged, and to see faster government progress in reaching settlements.

E kore au e tuku i te rā kia tō, kia rongo rā anō koe i a au.
I will not allow the sun to set until you hear me.