By Mike Butler
The document that is most likely the final English draft from which the Treaty of Waitangi was translated into Maori will quietly be buried in archives when a new exhibition of “iconic constitutional documents” opens next year at the National Library opposite Parliament Buildings.
New Zealand First MP Clayton Mitchell is taking Internal Affairs Minister Peter Dunne to task over the exclusion of the Busby February 4 document from the treaty display.
The “iconic documents” for display in the He Tohu - A declaration. A treaty. A petition exhibition include:
• The 1835 Declaration of Independence of the United Tribes of New Zealand written by James Busby.
• All nine signed sheets of the Treaty of Waitangi / Te Tiriti o Waitangi will be displayed in the new exhibition, including the sheet in the English language.
• The 1893 Women’s Suffrage Petition.
The display aims to provide “accurate and up-to-date information on the three documents”, according a profile document on the exhibition.
A key focus of the exhibition is educating young New Zealanders – with a focus on 10-15 year olds – about the history and on-going significance of these three documents to our national story. A guiding principle of the exhibition is that by better understanding our past, we create a brighter future.
The treaty is described as:
a written agreement between the British Crown (Queen Victoria) and representatives of iwi and hapū. After signing, New Zealand became a colony of Britain and Maori became British subjects. However, Maori and the British colonists had different understandings and expectations of Te Tiriti o Waitangi. Many Maori saw it as a creating a balance of authority, a confirmation of rangatiratanga. They understood the mana of the land would be retained, and kawanatanga (government) would sort out those Europeans who had proved to be troublesome.
As always, the devil is in the detail. Here are a few points to consider when pondering the significance of the exclusion of the Busby February 4 from a display of New Zealand’s “iconic constitutional documents”.
1. The 512 chiefs who signed the treaty signed the Maori text.
2. The Maori text has a single word that differs from the Busby February 4 draft, which is the inclusion in article 3 of the word “maori”, yes, lower case “m”, a word that meant “ordinary” in 1840.
3. If you want to know exactly what the treaty in Maori says and you don’t read Maori, it’s all there in the Busby February 4 document.
4. The only time that the so-called official English text was used at a treaty signing was at Waikato heads on April 11, 1840, when Reverend Robert Maunsell collected the first five signatures on an A4 sized printed Maori text, attached that document to a much larger piece of paper that happened to be a discarded version of the treaty in English, and collected the remaining signatures on the larger paper.
5. The substantial differences between the official English text and the Maori text created scope for mischief. At 568 words, the English text is much wordier than Te Tiriti's 480 words, and many words in the English, such as “right of pre-emption” are not in the Maori.
6. The treaty was drafted in English and translated into Maori. If the Busby February 4 document was displayed next to Te Tiriti, the tens of thousands of schoolchildren who will see the He Tohu exhibition may compare the English and Maori texts and see for themselves how exact the translation is.
7. This comparison may prompt questions about the modern interpretations of the words “kawanatanga” and “rangatiratanga” when they could see that “kawanatanga” translated “sovereignty” and “rangatiratanga” translated “possession”.
Mitchell asked Dunne “what are the reasons that the 1840 Littlewood Treaty is not seen as key taonga that has shaped the nation and therefore been excluded from the Chief Archivist’s new exhibition at the National Library?”
Dunne did not directly answer. He wrote:
There are many constitutional documents under the control of the Chief Archivist, all of which are considered taonga. However, only a small number are able to be displayed in the new permanent exhibition at the National Library building. The three documents selected for display were chosen as they represent pivotal moments in the history of our nation. The Treaty of Waitangi is considered to be the founding document of New Zealand, and has exceptional preservation requirements, while the Declaration of Independence and the Women’s Suffrage Petition are key instruments of change in the history of our nation.
Lack of space is not an issue because the Busby February 4 draft Littlewood treaty is only a two-page document. It is currently on display in the Constitution Room at the National Library, although only the second page is showing. Nevertheless, as is anyone may read the parts containing the words “sovereignty” and “possession”.
One further question for Dunne -- Don't you think the final English draft from which Te Tiriti was translated should form part of a display of Treaty of Waitangi documents and if not, why not?
The story of the Littlewood treaty reads a little like the old movie Raiders of the Lost Ark in which the lost ark was found to be intentionally lost once again deep in a warehouse containing government archives.
Extensive differences between the official English text and Te Tiriti led historians to believe that the final draft had gone missing.
In 1989, John Littlewood and sister Beryl Needham found a hand-written Treaty of Waitangi text in a drawer while clearing out their mum’s house after she died. Their forebear was Henry Littlewood, a solicitor who worked in the Bay of Islands and Auckland in the 1840s, and who did work for the United States Consul of the time, James Clendon. This document became known as “the Littlewood treaty”.
Beryl Needham took the document to her local MP Bill Birch, who suggested that she should take it to the Auckland Institute and Museum for analysis, which she did, where it stayed for a year. Treaty expert Claudia Orange looked at the document, provided information about Henry Littlewood, and did no more.
The official disinterest in a discovered missing final draft of the treaty which did not include the phrase “lands and estates forests fisheries in article 2 coincided with top-level negotiations that resulted in the Treaty of Waitangi (Fisheries Claims) Settlement Act 1992. This official disinterest persisted as almost all licensed forest land and associated rentals were given to tribal corporations.
Historian Donald Loveridge, who has worked for the Crown Forestry Rental Trust and treaty claimants, issued a memo on the document, in 1993, in response to a request from the Treaty Issues Team at the Crown Law Office, noting that the document "is virtually identical in all respects to the Clendon translation".
The “Clendon translation” was an English text of the treaty sent by Clendon to the United States on February 20, 1840. Clendon sent this document that looks like a copy of the Busby February 4 draft with February 6 instead of February 4 on it plus a copy of the treaty, in Maori. The covering letter referred to a “translation” without saying which document was the translation.
In 2000, Dr Phil Parkinson, a treaty researcher at National Archives, confirmed that Busby was the author of the Littlewood treaty.
The Treaty of Waitangi Information Unit commissioned Loveridge to do a full appraisal in 2006. Loveridge re-stated his view the Busby February 4 document was a back translation of the Maori text of the treaty, especially because Clendon said it was.
But Loveridge also noted that "if Clendon’s description was not correct, however – for whatever reason – the possibility would remain that the date was used intentionally, and that the Littlewood document is in fact a copy of the missing draft”.
The absence of the Busby February 4 document allows tribal interests to push the fiction that chiefs did not cede sovereignty and all they agreed to was to allow the British Governor contain unruly British settlers.
Tribalists go on to claim that the government stole the chiefs' “rangatiratanga” and caused everything that went wrong for Maori and therefore must forever pay for that.
If you are at all worried about this official perversion of our history, and the associated indoctrination, please contact your MP and demand that the Busby February 4 draft be included in the He Tohu - A declaration. A treaty. A petition exhibition.
First published at the New Zealand Centre for Political Research on August 14, 2016