He Whakaputanga o te Rangatiratanga o Nu Tireni
The Declaration of the Independence of New Zealand
He Whakaputanga o te Rangatiratanga o Nu Tireni – known in English as the Declaration of Independence of the United Tribes of New Zealand – is a constitutional document of historical and cultural significance.
First signed by 34 Northern Māori rangatira (chiefs) on 28 October 1835, He Whakaputanga collected a further 18 signatures by 1839. This included Te Hāpuku of Hawkes Bay, and the Waikato leader Te Wherowhero, who later became the first Māori King. Through He Whakaputanga, these 52 rangatira asserted that Aotearoa New Zealand was an independent Māori state, that power resided fully with Māori, and that foreigners would not be allowed to make laws.
Described by British Resident James Busby as the "Magna Carta of New Zealand Independence", He Whakaputanga was a bold and innovative declaration of Indigenous power. Officially recognised by the United Kingdom, it signalled the emergence of Māori authority on the world stage. It was also one of the earliest assertions of Māori identity beyond separate iwi and hapū.
He Whakaputanga can be translated as "an emergence". The document itself consisted of four articles. It asserted the independence of Nu Tireni (Aotearoa New Zealand) under the rule of the "United Tribes of New Zealand". All sovereign power and authority in the land ("Ko te Kingitanga ko te mana i te w[h]enua") resided with the chiefs "in their collective capacity". The chiefs present agreed to meet annually at Waitangi to make laws. In return for the "friendship and protection" that Māori were to give British subjects in New Zealand, the chiefs asked King William IV "to continue to be the parent [matua] of their infant State", and requested he "become its Protector from all attempts upon its independence".
The English draft of the document was written by James Busby, and was translated into Māori by the missionary Henry Williams (a draft in William’s handwriting is held at Archives New Zealand). Eruera Pare Hongi, a relation of Hongi Hika, wrote the final copy in Māori, which was the version that was signed (he is noted as "te kai tuhituhi" or "the scribe" on the document). In 1836, sixty copies of He Whakaputanga were produced by William Colenso on the Church Missionary Society press at Paihia. These copies were used to diffuse a flare-up between missionaries and traders in the Hokianga. In April 1837 Colenso printed a second edition of one hundred copies.
In recognition of its significance, He Whakaputanga was inscribed on the UNESCO Memory of the World New Zealand Register in 2015.
Since 2017, He Whakaputanga has sat alongside Te Tiriti o Waitangi and the 1893 Women’s Suffrage Petition in an exhibition at the National Library of New Zealand. This exhibition has considerably raised the profile of He Whakaputanga and its constitutional significance.
What the document says: original Te Reo version and English translation
He Wakaputanga o te Rangatiratanga o Nu Tireni
Ko matou ko nga Tino Rangatira o nga iwi o Nu Tireni i raro mai o Hauraki kua oti nei te huihui i Waitangi i Tokerau 28 o Oketopa 1835. ka wakaputa i te Rangatiratanga o to matou wenua a ka meatia ka wakaputaia e matou he Wenua Rangatira. kia huaina ‘Ko te Wakaminenga o nga Hapu o Nu Tireni’.
Ko te Kingitanga ko te mana i te wenua o te wakaminenga o Nu Tireni ka meatia nei kei nga Tino Rangatira anake i to matou huihuinga. a ka mea hoki e kore e tukua e matou te wakarite ture ki te tahi hunga ke atu, me te tahi Kawanatanga hoki kia meatia i te wenua o te wakaminenga o Nu Tireni. ko nga tangata anake e meatia nei e matou e wakarite ana ki te ritenga o o matou ture e meatia nei e matou i to matou huihuinga.
Ko matou ko nga Tino Rangatira ke mea nei kia huihui ki te runanga ki Waitangi a te Ngahuru i tenei tau i tenei tau ki te wakarite ture kia tika ai te wakawakanga kia mau pu te rongo kia mutu te he kia tika te hokohoko. a ka mea hoki ki nga Tauiwi o runga kia wakarerea te wawai. kia mahara ai ki te wakaoranga o to matou wenua. a kia uru ratou ki te wakaminenga o Nu Tireni.
Ka mea matou kia tuhituhia he pukapuka ki te ritenga o tenei o to matou wakaputanga nei ki te Kingi o Ingarani hei kawe atu i to matou aroha. nana hoki i wakaae ki te Kara mo matou. a no te mea ka atawai matou, ka tiaki i nga pakeha e noho nei i uta e rere mai ana ki te hokohoko, koia ka mea ai matou ki te Kingi kia waiho hei matua ki a matou i to matou Tamarikitanga kei wakakahoretia to matou Rangatiratanga.
Kua wakaetia katoatia e matou i tenei ra i te 28 o opketopa 1835 ki te aroaro o te Reireneti o te Kingi o Ingarani.
Ko matou ko nga Rangatira ahakoa kihai i tae ki te huihuinga nei no te nuinga o te Waipuke no te aha ranei – ka wakaae katoa ki te waka putanga Rangatiratanga o Nu Tirene a ka uru ki roto ki te Wakaminenga.
A translation by Dr Mānuka Hēnare
He Wakaputanga o te Rangatiratanga o Nu Tireni
We, the absolute leaders of the tribes (iwi) of New Zealand (Nu Tireni) to the north of Hauraki (Thames) having assembled in the Bay of Islands (Tokerau) on 28th October 1835. [We] declare the authority and leadership of our country and say and declare them to be prosperous economy and chiefly country (Wenua Rangatira) under the title of ‘Te Wakaminenga o ngā Hapū o Nu Tireni’ (The sacred Confederation of Tribes of New Zealand).
The sovereignty/kingship (Kīngitanga) and the mana from the land of the Confederation of New Zealand are here declared to belong solely to the true leaders (Tino Rangatira) of our gathering, and we also declare that we will not allow (tukua) any other group to frame laws (wakarite ture), nor any Governorship (Kawanatanga) to be established in the lands of the Confederation, unless (by persons) appointed by us to carry out (wakarite) the laws (ture) we have enacted in our assembly (huihuinga).
We, the true leaders have agreed to meet in a formal gathering (rūnanga) at Waitangi in the autumn (Ngahuru) of each year to enact laws (wakarite ture) that justice may be done (kia tika ai te wakawakanga), so that peace may prevail and wrong-doing cease and trade (hokohoko) be fair. [We] invite the southern tribes to set aside their animosities, consider the well-being of our land and enter into the sacred Confederation of New Zealand.
We agree that a copy of our declaration should be written and sent to the King of England to express our appreciation (aroha) for this approval of our flag. And because we are showing friendship and care for the Pākehā who live on our shores, who have come here to trade (hokohoko), we ask the King to remain as a protector (matua) for us in our inexperienced statehood (tamarikitanga), lest our authority and leadership be ended (kei whakakahoretia tō mātou Rangatiratanga).
We are the rangatira who, although we did not attend the meeting due to the widespread flooding or other reasons, fully agree with He Whakaputanga Rangatiratanga o Nu Tirene and join the sacred Confederation.
What the document says: original English version
Declaration of the Independence of New Zealand
We, the hereditary chiefs and heads of the tribes of the Northern parts of New Zealand, being assembled at Waitangi, in the Bay of Islands, on this 28th day of October, 1835, declare the Independence of our country, which is hereby constituted and declared to be an Independent State, under the designation of The United Tribes of New Zealand.
All sovereign power and authority within the territories of the United Tribes of New Zealand is hereby declared to reside entirely and exclusively in the hereditary chiefs and heads of tribes in their collective capacity, who also declare that they will not permit any legislative authority separate from themselves in their collective capacity to exist, nor any function of government to be exercised within the said territories, unless by persons appointed by them, and acting under the authority of laws regularly enacted by them in Congress assembled.
The hereditary chiefs and heads of tribes agree to meet in Congress at Waitangi, in the autumn of each year, for the purpose of framing laws for the dispensation of justice, the preservation of peace and good order, and the regulation of trade; and they cordially invite the Southern tribes to lay aside their private animosities, and to consult the safety and welfare of our common country by joining the Confederation of the United Tribes.
They also agree to send a copy of this Declaration to His Majesty the King of England, to thank him for his acknowledgement of their flag; and in return for the friendship and protection they have shown, and are prepared to show, to such of his subjects as have settled in their country, or resorted to its shores for the purposes of trade, they entreat that he will continue to be the parent of their infant State, and that he will become its Protector from all attempts upon its independence. Agreed to unanimously on this 28th day of October, 1835, in the presence of His Britannic Majesty’s Resident.
(Here follow the signatures or marks of thirty-five Hereditary chiefs or Heads of tribes, which form a fair representation of the tribes of New Zealand from the North Cape to the latitude of the River Thames.) English witnesses:
(Signed) Henry Williams, Missionary, CMS.
George Clarke, CMS.
James C Clendon, Merchant.
Gilbert Mair, Merchant.
I certify that the above is a correct copy of the Declaration of the Chiefs, according to the translation of Missionaries who have resided ten years and upwards in the country ; and it is transmitted to His Most Gracious Majesty the King of England, at the unanimous request of the chiefs. (Signed) JAMES BUSBY, British Resident at New Zealand.
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Last updated on 17 June 2021