New Zealand Company/United Tribes flag,
1839, Maker unknown. Gift of Andrew Haggerty Richard Gillespie, 1967. Te Papa
The New Zealand Company raised this flag at Petone (near present-day Wellington) in 1839, after negotiating dubious purchases of Māori land for British settlement.
The flag resembles that of the ‘United Tribes of New Zealand’, chosen by northern Māori chiefs in 1834 to assert their independence. By flying it, the New Zealand Company was asserting that its purchases were legitimate.
But the flag didn’t last long. In 1840, Māori chiefs and the British Crown signed the Treaty of Waitangi, establishing British rule here. The Crown saw the New Zealand Company’s continued use of its own flag – rather than the Union Jack – as a challenge. It ordered the flag removed. For many Māori, the ‘United Tribes of New Zealand’ flag remains an assertion of tino rangatiratanga (self-determination).