Glass Treaty 

Glass Treaty
The glass treaty case

Curriculum links

Learning area

Social Studies

Which strands will it fit with?

Continuity and Change, Identity, Culture and Organisation

Key Competencies

Thinking, Relating to others, Using language, symbols, and texts

Levels of achievement

Levels 2-8

Year groups

Years 2-13


Which topics of study can it support?

  • New Zealand Society, Past and Present
  • New Zealand History
  • New Zealand Icons

How long might this take?

Allow 15-20 minutes.

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Where do I find it?

Level 4, Treaty of Waitangi: Signs of a Nation. If you get lost, just ask a Te Papa Host.

Why should I take my class to visit this?

  • Find out about the founding document of Aotearoa New Zealand. Your class can view replicas of the original Māori and English versions of the Treaty of Waitangi and its three articles.  You can also view a translation in English of the Māori text.
  • The whole class can easily fit into the space.
  • Hear Māori and Pākehā stories about people and the land.

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What is there to do there?

  • Go up to the Glass Treaty and look at the tattered appearance of the document.
  • Hear what different people think about the Treaty of Waitangi at the listening posts.
  • Compare the two versions of the Treaty, and the translated Māori version.
  • Look in the cases under the Glass Treaty. Find objects that comment on Māori and European attitudes to land.

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What should I know about this?

The leadup to the Treaty 

  • In the early nineteenth century, there was a law and order problem in New Zealand. The British government decided that a stronger official presence was needed, so it appointed James Busby as British Resident. He arrived in May 1833, but had few resources and little authority.
  • In 1835, James Busby created the Declaration of Independence in response to a perceived threat to New Zealand from French interests.  The declaration was initially signed by 34 northern chiefs at Waitangi. By 1839, when the last chief signed it, there was a total of 52 signatures. The Declaration stated that all sovereign power and authority in the land resided with the chiefs.
  • By the late 1830s, the British Government was concerned about the acquisition of Māori land by British subjects and other Europeans in New Zealand, and also about the New Zealand Company and its programme of systematic colonisation.

The Treaty is signed 

  • Captain Hobson was sent from England in 1839 to make an agreement with Māori about setting up a British Colony. Hobson arrived in New Zealand on 29 January 1840, and on 1 February began to draft the Treaty. He became unwell and enlisted the help of Busby to finish the job. Henry Williams and his son Edward translated the Treaty into Māori on the evening of 4 February. On the morning of 5 February a meeting was held at Waitangi where the Treaty (in Māori) was first presented to the chiefs.
  • The Treaty of Waitangi is Aotearoa New Zealand’s founding document. It was first signed on 6 February 1840. Nine copies were used for gathering signatures around New Zealand.  These copies were eventually signed by over 500 Māori chiefs, in more than 30 different places. Only 39 chiefs signed a copy of the Treaty in English.

What the Treaty says

  • There are significant differences between the Māori and English versions of the Treaty.  Some of the terms used in the surviving Māori texts do not mean quite the same as those used in the English version.
    • In the English version of the first Article, it states that Māori leaders give the Queen ‘all the rights and powers of sovereignty’ over their land. In the Māori text, Māori leaders give the Queen ‘te kawanatanga katoa’ - complete government over their land.
    • In the English version of the second Article, it states that Māori leaders and people are confirmed and guaranteed ‘exclusive and undisturbed possession of their lands and estates, forests, fisheries and other properties’. In the Māori text, Māori are guaranteed ‘te tino rangatiratanga’ - the unqualified exercise of their chieftainship over their lands, villages, and all their treasures. In the English text, Māori yielded to the Crown an exclusive right to purchase their land. Māori agreed to give the Crown the right to buy land from them should Māori wish to sell it.
    • In the English version of the third Article, it states that Māori would have the royal protection of the Queen, and that she imparts to them ‘all the Rights and Privileges of British Subjects’. In the Māori text of the Treaty, the Crown gives an assurance that Māori would have the Queen’s protection and all rights - ‘tikanga’ - accorded to British subjects.

The Treaty's legacy

  • The Treaty is a document that has continued to influence New Zealand society from 1840 to today. It was viewed by many Māori as a sacred covenant that promised partnership. However, for Pākēha, the Treaty became increasingly irrelevant from the time it was signed. Within just a few decades, it was dismissed as a legal nulity.
  • During the nineteenth century, Māori were marginalised and struggled with loss of their tribal lands and resources. While governments ignored Treaty obligations Māori protested about what they had lost.  From the end of the nineteenth century, they began to promote their own social and cultural revival. It was not until the 1970s that substantial political change came about. This included the establishment of the Waitangi Tribunal and the start of a new era of relationships between Māori and Pākehā.
  • The Waitangi Tribunal plays an important role in inquiring into Māori claims. Its reports are often the first step in the settlement of Treaty grievances. Taking a claim to the Tribunal is a long and difficult process, but a successful settlement is an important part of the future progress of many iwi.
  • The fate of the Treaty documents themselves reflects changing views of the Treaty of Waitangi's significance.  For decades, the documents were neglected - almost destroyed by fire and water, and damaged by rats. Today the reverse is true. The originals are held in a secure, temperature-regulated environment at Archives New Zealand. The Treaty has come to be regarded as the founding document of our nation

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Possible topics for discussion

  • How would you describe what a treaty is?

One definition is ‘an agreement or contract between two or more nations or sovereigns’. Do you know of any other treaties or agreements? For example, the Declaration of Independence, classroom rules, bond/lease agreements, and so on.

  • Why do you think Europeans began coming to Aotearoa?

Up until the late 1830s, Europeans came to New Zealand mainly to trade and to exploit the country’s natural resources (such as seals, whales, timber, flax, and fisheries). Missionaries also arrived from 1814, bringing Christianity, new skills and ideas on different ways of living. From the late 1830s, Europeans began to see New Zealand as a place for permanent settlement where they could purchase land and start a new life.

  • How did Māori and European populations in Aotearoa change over the nineteenth century?

In the 1830s, the Māori population is estimated to have been about 100,000. In the early years of that decade, the number of Europeans would have been around 200. But as more arrived due to increased trade and settlement, this increased to about 2000 by 1839. By 1850, the European population was 22,000. In 1864, there were 171,000 European. The Māori population fell to around 40,000 by 1900.

  • How did Māori adapt to the arrival of European goods and technologies?

As the number of Europeans in New Zealand grew, so did the number of muskets and other trade goods. Māori also learned new agricultural techniques and trade skills. Different technological ideas were also introduced, such as metal for knives, scissors, mirrors, nails, and iron pots.

  • Why have a Treaty?

The British Crown decided to make New Zealand a colony. They wanted a treaty to handle the settlers already in New Zealand, and also to manage the thousands of expected emigrants, while preserving the rights of the Māori people too.

Some Māori believed they would benefit from a treaty because it would protect them from the lawlessness of some settlers. Others believed a treaty would help to preserve their customs, and ensure that their land would not be taken from them.

  • How do the Māori and English versions of the Treaty differ?

The Māori version does not accurately match the English version. Therefore Māori and Europeans had different understandings of the Treaty.

  • Why did some chiefs sign the Treaty?

Chiefs signed because they wanted peace, protection, and the benefits of better opportunities for trade.  Land issues were also an integral factor in the signing of the Treaty. Land was being bought up vigorously by Europeans, and some chiefs thought the Treaty would enable them to resist this. Many believed that the Treaty was a sacred agreement between themselves and the Queen.

  • Why did other chiefs not sign the Treaty?

Some chiefs refused to sign because they didn’t want to lose control of their affairs, and they didn’t want to be restricted by the governor. Others saw the Treaty as a threat to their landholdings. Some did not want to put their mana under that of a woman, Queen Victoria.

  • If you could change the Treaty of Waitangi, what would you change, and why?
  • Does your class have a treaty? Why/why not?

Design a class treaty that includes articles and its own independent flag. What do you need to consider when drafting it?

  • What do the people in the talking posts in Signs of a Nation say?

Do they all have the same opinion? What are some of the viewpoints you can hear? Do you agree or disagree with them?

  • Apart from lodging a Treaty claim with the Waitangi Tribunal, how else can iwi seek to resolve their grievances?

For example, direct negotiation.

  • Biculturalism - what does it mean?

How do New Zealanders understand this concept today? Can you be both bicultural and multicultural?

Rather than classifying Treaty parties as ‘Māori’ and ‘Pākeha’, Te Papa’s Treaty model recognises tangata whenua (people here by right of first discovery, i.e. Māori and Moriori) and tangata Tiriti (people here by right of the Crown’s signing of the Treaty). Tangata Tiriti thereby covers all other cultures and peoples, including Pākehā, Asian, Pacific, and so on.

  • Is there a place for the Treaty of Waitangi in the future? If it were to be replaced, what would it be replaced with?

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Further information

  • Tai Awatea | Knowledge Net, Te Papa’s online multimedia database - access available within Te Papa, or on our website.
  • An Illustrated History of the Treaty of Waitangi, Orange, Claudia 2004. Wellington: Bridget Williams Books Ltd
  • The Story of a Treaty, Orange, Claudia 1989.  Wellington: Bridget Williams Books Ltd
  • The Waitangi Tribunal wbesite
  • New Zealand History Online. Visit this website to order a set of free booklets produced by the Treaty of Waitangi Information Unit and the State Services Commission.

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Related material

  • Te Hono ki Hawaiki, the wharenui (meeting house) in Te Papa’s Marae, Rongomaraeroa, on Level 4. Go to the figures on the back wall and identify how they relate to 1840. Have a look at the triptych on the back wall.
  • Te Hau ki Turanga: this wharenui in Mana Whenua is currently the subject of a Treaty claim. Level 4.
  • ‘Wai 262 - asserting intellectual property rights’ (exhibition case), by Te Huka ā Tai Discovery Centre on Level 4.
  • Passports - the moving stories of people who have come to New Zealand over the last 200 years, on Level 4.

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