Chiefs understood that ceding sovereignty meant British rule

signing_TOW.jpgA report by the Waitangi Tribunal, two years ago, that argues the Ngapuhi chiefs of Northland did not agree to cede sovereignty is contradicted by statements made by chiefs at Waitangi, on February 5, 1840, and by the statements of more chiefs at Kohimarama in Auckland in August 1860.

Missionary William Colenso attended the Treaty debate among chiefs on February 5, 1840, and the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi the next day and wrote an account of the events. He recorded statements by various chiefs, and these statements reveal that the chiefs understood the implications of ceding sovereignty as set out in Article 1 of the Treaty of Waitangi. (1)

Te Kemara, a chief of the Ngatikawa, said, "Health to thee, O Governor! This is mine to thee, O Governor! I am not pleased towards thee. I do not wish for thee. I will not consent to thy remaining here in this country. If thou stayest as Governor, then, perhaps, Te Kemara will be judged and condemned. Yes, indeed, and more than that—even hung by the neck. No, no, no; I shall never say 'Yes' to your staying. Were all to be on an equality, then, perhaps, Te Kemara would say, 'Yes;' but for the Governor to be up and Te Kemara down—Governor high up, up, up, and Te Kemara down low, small, a worm, a crawler—No, no, no.

Hakiro (son of Tareha, but who on this occasion appeared and spoke on behalf of Titore,* deceased, principal chief of the Ngatinanenane Tribe) arose and said, "To thee, O Governor! this. Who says 'Sit'? Who? Hear me, O Governor! I say, no, no. Sit, indeed! Who says 'Sit'? Go back, go back; do not thou sit here. What wilt thou sit here for? We are not thy people. We are free. We will not have a Governor. Return, return; leave us. The missionaries and Busby are our fathers. We do not want thee; so go back, return, walk away."

Tareha, chief of the Ngatirehia Tribe, said, "No Governor for me—for us Native men. We, we only are the chiefs, rulers. We will not be ruled over. What! thou, a foreigner, up, and I down! Thou high, and I, Tareha, the great chief of the Ngapuhi tribes, low! No, no; never, never. I am jealous of thee; I am, and shall be, until thou and thy ship go away. Go back, go back; thou shalt not stay here.

Rawiri, a chief of the Ngatitautahi Tribe, arose and said (first sentence in English), "Good morning, Mr. Governor! very good you! Our Governor, our Father! Stay here, O Governor! Sit, that we may be in peace. A good thing this for us—yes, for us, my friends, Native men. Stay, sit. Do thou remain, O Governor! to be a Governor for us."

Tamati Waka Nene, chief of the Ngatihao Tribe, said "O Governor! sit. I, Tamati Waka, say to thee, sit. Do not thou go away from us; remain for us—a father, a judge, a peacemaker.

Eruera Maehe Patuone (the elder brother of Tamati Waka Nene) said, "What shall I say on this great occasion, in the presence of all those great chiefs of both countries? Here, then, this is my word to thee, O Governor! Sit, stay—thou, and the missionaries, and the Word of God. Remain here with us, to be a father for us, that the French have us not, that Pikopo, that bad man, have us not. Remain, Governor. Sit, stay, our friend."

In 1860, in an attempt to prevent the fighting in Taranaki from spreading to other regions and tribes, Governor Thomas Gore Browne held a conference of chiefs at Kohimarama, Auckland, in August of that year. Around 200 chiefs attended, more than at the gathering at Waitangi 20 years earlier.

Wikiriwhi Matehenoa of Ngati Porou said “We are all under the sovereignty of the Queen, but there have also been other authorities over us sanctioned by God and the Queen, namely, our Ministers”.

Horomona Toremi of Ngati Raukawa in Otaki said “You over there (the Pakehas) are the only chiefs. The Pakeha took me out of the mire: the Pakeha washed me. This is my word. Let there be one word for all of this island”.

Te Ahukaramu said “First, God: secondly, the Queen: thirdly, the Governor. Let there be one Queen for us. Make known to us all the laws, that we may all dwell under one law”.

Tamati Waka Nene, one of the leaders who signed at Waitangi, said “My desire when Governor Hobson arrived here was to take him as our Governor, in order that we might have his protection. Who knows the minds of the Americans, or that of the French? Therefore, I say, let us have the English to protect us. Therefore, my friends, do I say, let this Governor be our Governor and this Queen our Queen. Let us accept this Governor, as a Governor for the whole of us. Let me tell you, ye assembled tribes, I have but one Governor. Let this Governor be a King to us. Listen again, ye people. When the Governor came here, he brought with him the Word of God by which we live; and it is through the teachings of that Word that we are able to meet together on this day, under one roof. Therefore, I say, I know no sovereign but the Queen, and I never shall know any other. I am walking by the side of the Pakeha”.

It is clear by the words of these chiefs that they understood that cession of sovereignty meant that they would be under the sovereignty of the Queen. To them, the benefits of British government outweighed the liabilities of life before British rule.

The recommendation of the Waitangi Tribunal that the Ngapuhi chiefs of Northland did not agree to cede sovereignty is manifestly incorrect and provides further proof that the Waitangi Tribunal should be abolished.


1.William Colenso, The History of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi,

2.Proceedings of the Kohimarama Conference, July 1860.