United Tribes of New Zealand

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United Tribes flag flying at Waitangi.

The United Tribes of New Zealand was a loose confederation of Māori tribes based in the north of the North Island.

History[edit]

The confederation was convened in 1834 by British Resident James Busby. Busby was sent to New Zealand in 1833 by the Colonial Office to serve as the official British Resident, and was anxious to set up a framework for trade between Māori and Europeans; the Māori chiefs of northern part of the North Island agreed to meet with him in March 1834. Rumours began spreading that the Frenchman, Baron Charles de Thierry, was going to set up an independent state at Hokianga. The United Tribes declared their independence on 28 October 1835 with the signing of the Declaration of Independence.[1] In 1836, the British Crown under King William IV recognized the United Tribes and its flag. Busby's efforts were entirely too successful – as the islands settled down, the British began to consider an outright annexation. In February 1840, a number of chiefs of the United Tribes convened at Waitangi to sign the Treaty of Waitangi.[2]

By 1839, the Declaration of the United Tribes had 52 signatories from Northland and a few signatories from other parts, notably from the ariki of the Waikato Tainui, Pōtatau Te Wherowhero.[3] During the Musket Wars (1807 – 1842), Ngāpuhi and other tribes raided and occupied many parts of North Island but eventually reverted to their previous territorial status as other tribes acquired European weapons.

From a New Zealand standpoint under the settler government, the Confederation has been considered to have been assimilated into a new entity after the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi and the Declaration is viewed in large part as merely a historical document.[1] In recent times, questions have risen regarding the relevance of the Declaration in constitutional matters.[4]

If the United Tribes of New Zealand is taken to have had its sovereignty transferred in 1840, its territory would therefore be the New Zealand government's, although it can be argued that the entity still exists, though may no longer be sovereign.

Modern developments[edit]

In 2007, Sydney-based Māori academic Brent Kerehona questioned whether the Ngāpuhi chief Moka 'Kainga-mataa' did in fact sign the treaty, as has been claimed by historians and academics of the past.[citation needed] Moka was an original signatory to the Declaration of Independence on 28 October 1835, the sole Maori signatory to Hobson's Proclamations on 30 January 1840 (only seven days prior to the Treaty signing) and voiced his concerns about the Treaty's effects whilst he was at the Treaty meeting on 5 February 1840. Kerehona infers that despite his name appearing on the Treaty of Waitangi, there is no accompanying mark or signature; and that the conversation on 5 February, between Moka, the Reverend Charles Baker and Captain William Hobson, recorded by William Colenso (1890), should also be considered.

As of October 2010, Ngāpuhi's claim that sovereignty was not given up in their signing of the Treaty of Waitangi is being investigated by the Waitangi Tribunal.[5] The Waitangi Tribunal, in Te Paparahi o te Raki inquiry (Wai 1040)[6] is in the process of considering the Māori and Crown understandings of He Whakaputanga o te Rangatiratanga / The Declaration of Independence 1835 and Te Tiriti o Waitangi / the Treaty of Waitangi 1840.

Many of the arguments being used are outlined in Paul Moon's 2002 book Te Ara Ki Te Tiriti: The Path to the Treaty of Waitangi, which argued that not only did the Maori signatories have no intention of transferring sovereignty, but that at the time the British government and James Busby did not wish to acquire it and that the developments and justifications leading to the present state were later developments.[7] It is estimated that the hearings will last between four and six years, and may serve a serious precedent for all Maori tribal groups if the Tribunal recognizes Ngāpuhi sovereignty. A common Ngāpuhi interpretation of the Declaration of the United Tribes is that the British government was simply recognizing Māori independence and putting the world on check, merely re-asserting sovereignty that had existed from "time immemorial".[8]

Flag[edit]

The original 1834 design for the flag of the United Tribes of New Zealand, currently used as a flag by Māori groups in New Zealand.
The amended flag of the United Tribes of New Zealand, New Zealand's first flag, gazetted in 1835 and based on the design selected in 1834.
The flag pole at Waitangi, flying (left - right) the Flag of the United Tribes of New Zealand, the Ensign of the Royal New Zealand Navy and the Union Flag, 5 February 2006.

The idea of a flag to represent New Zealand first arose when the trading ship Sir George Murray was seized in Sydney for sailing without a flag or register in 1830. British navigation laws ruled that every ship must carry an official certification. New Zealand was not yet a British colony, so could not sail under a British flag. With no flag to represent the islands, trading became difficult, if not impossible.[9] While a temporary licence was granted for the Sir George Murray by New South Wales authorities, it was clear that a more permanent solution was needed. Busby was approached by Maori chiefs in 1833 about the matter of a flag. Busby asks Reverend Williams and the Colonial Secretary Richard Bourke in New South Wales for assistance, and, with additional consultation with tribal leaders, three designs were drawn up.

On 20th March 1834, three designs put to 25 northern Maori chiefs at Waitangi by James Busby and Captain Lambert of the Man-of-war HMS Alligator. By a vote of 12-10-3, the design now widely known as the United Tribes Flag was chosen.[10] British, American, and French representatives witnessed the ceremony, which included a 21-gun salute from the Alligator.[11]

The flag was based in part on the on the St George's Cross that was already used by the Church Missionary Society, with a canton featuring a smaller red cross on a blue background fimbriated in black, and with a white eight-pointed star in each quarter of the canton. When officially gazetted in New South Wales in 1835, some of these features were altered, to fit with more standard heraldic patterns - the fimbriation was made white, and the eight-pointed stars were changed to five-pointed stars. This altered version of the flag served as the de facto national flag of New Zealand from 1835 until the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in February 1840.[12]

The earlier version of the flag, with black fimbriation and eight-pointed stars, is widely used today as a flag by Māori groups throughout New Zealand, who also refer to it as the He Whakaputanga flag. In July 2009 it was proposed as one of four possible designs for an official Māori flag at a series of hui around New Zealand. The flag is also occasionally encountered with black or white fimbriation and six-pointed stars.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b New Zealand Historical Atlas. p. "Te Whenua Rangatira", plate 36. 
  2. ^ King, Michael (2003). The Penguin History of New Zealand. Penguin Books. ISBN 0-14-301867-1. 
  3. ^ "Treaty events 1800-49 - Treaty timeline". New Zealand History online. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 6 September 2011. 
  4. ^ "Declaration of Independence – background to the Treaty". The Declaration of Independence. New Zealand History online. Retrieved 6 September 2011. 
  5. ^ Field, Michael. "Hearing starts into Ngāpuhi's claims". Stuff. Fairfax New Zealand. Retrieved 6 September 2011. 
  6. ^ Te Paparahi o Te Raki (Northland) inquiry, Waitangi Tribunal
  7. ^ "Book lies at the heart of Ngāpuhi’s sovereignty". NZNewsUK. Sky News New Zealand. Retrieved 6 September 2011. 
  8. ^ "Joshua Hitchcock sets the record straight regarding Ngapuhi, sovereignty, and legal pluralism in New Zealand". Settler Colonial Studies Blog. 3 August 2010. Retrieved 6 September 2011. 
  9. ^ "About the United Tribes of New Zealand flag," Diversity Flags. Retrieved 7 February 2014.
  10. ^ United Tries Flag", nzhistory.net. Retrieved 7 February 2014.
  11. ^ "History," united-tribes.com. Retrieved 7 February 2014.
  12. ^ Flags of the World's United Tribes flag page
  • Colenso, W. (1890). The Authentic and Genuine History of the Treaty of Waitangi. Wellington. p. 19.