In 1840, English officials on behalf of the British crown signed the Treaty of Waitangi—also known as Te Tiriti o Waitangi—with the Indigenous Māori population, affirming Māori sovereignty and guaranteeing their collective rights to the country’s land and resources. Since the 1700s, English settlers had been arriving in Aotearoa (the Māori name for New Zealand) to capitalize on the seal and whale trade. As the number of settlers increased, reports flowed back to Britain of general lawlessness and dubious private land deals, and the crown was forced to consider how best to control its citizens. A treaty with the Māori, officials decided, was the way to do so. The agreement, which established the basis for the relationship between the Māori and the British, is commonly cited as a shining example of how a treaty can recognize and protect Indigenous peoples’ rights by...

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