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On 28 October 1835, James Busby called a hui (meeting) at Waitangi. Thirty-four northern chiefs who became known as the Confederation of United Tribes signed ‘A Declaration of the Independence of New Zealand’ and called upon King William IV of Britain to become their ‘parent’ and ‘Protector’. They also thanked the King for acknowledging their flag.
The handwritten Declaration consisting of four articles was later printed by a mission printery. It asserted the independence of Nu Tirene (New Zealand) under the rule of the ‘United Tribes of New Zealand’, which planned to ‘meet in Congress’ at Waitangi each autumn to frame laws.
Māori had no say in the preparation of this document. Nevertheless, by 1839, 52 chiefs had signed the declaration, which was acknowledged by the British government. Busby saw it as a significant mark of Māori national identity and believed it would prevent other countries from making formal deals with Māori.
1. KO MATOU, ko nga Tino Rangatira o nga iwi o Nu Tireni i raro mai o Hauraki kua oti nei te huihui i Waitangi i Tokerau i te ra 28 o Oketopa 1835, ka wakaputa i te Rangatiratanga o to matou wenua a ka meatia ka wakaputaia e matou he Wenua Rangatira, kia huaina, Ko te Wakaminenga o nga Hapu o Nu Tireni.
2. Ko te Kingitanga ko te mana i te wenua o te wakaminenga o Nu Tireni ka meatia nei kei nga Tino Rangatira anake i to matou huihuinga, a ka mea hoki e kore e tukua e matou te wakarite ture ki te tahi hunga ke atu, me te tahi Kawanatanga hoki kia meatia i te wenua o te wakaminenga o Nu Tireni, ko nga tangata anake e meatia nei e matou e wakarite ana ki te ritenga o o matou ture e meatia nei matou i to matou huihuinga.
3. Ko matou ko nga tino Rangatira ka mea nei kia huihui ki te runanga ki Waitangi a te Ngahuru i tenei tau i tenei tau ki te wakarite ture kia tika ai te wakawakanga, kia mau pu te rongo kia mutu te he kia tika te hokohoko, a ka mea hoki ki nga tauiwi o runga, kia wakarerea te wawai, kia mahara ai ki te wakaoranga o to matou wenua, a kia uru ratou ki te wakaminenga o Nu Tireni.
4. Ka mea matou kia tuhituhia he pukapuka ki te ritenga o tenei o to matou wakaputanga nei ki te Kingi o Ingarani hei kawe atu i to matou aroha nana hoki i wakaae ki te Kara mo matou. A no te mea ka atawai matou, ka tiaki i nga pakeha e noho nei i uta, e rere mai ana ki te hokohoko, koia ka mea ai matou ki te Kingi kia waiho hei matua ki a matou i to matou Tamarikitanga kei wakakahoretia to matou Rangatiratanga.
KUA WAKAAETIA katoatia e matou i tenei ra i te 28 Oketopa, 1835, ki te aroaro o te Reireneti o te Kingi o Ingarani.
Declaration of Independence of New Zealand
1. We, the hereditary chiefs and heads of the tribes of the Northern parts of New Zealand, being assembled at Waitangi, in the Bay of Islands, on this 28th day of October, 1835, declare the Independence of our country, which is hereby constituted and declared to be an Independent State, under the designation of The United Tribes of New Zealand.
2. All sovereign power and authority within the territories of the United Tribes of New Zealand is hereby declared to reside entirely and exclusively in the hereditary chiefs and heads of tribes in their collective capacity, who also declare that they will not permit any legislative authority separate from themselves in their collective capacity to exist, nor any function of government to be exercised within the said territories, unless by persons appointed by them, and acting under the authority of laws regularly enacted by them in Congress assembled.
3. The hereditary chiefs and heads of tribes agree to meet in Congress at Waitangi in the autumn of each year, for the purpose of framing laws for the dispensation of justice, the preservation of peace and good order, and the regulation of trade; and they cordially invite the Southern tribes to lay aside their private animosities and to consult the safety and welfare of our common country, by joining the Confederation of the United Tribes.
4. They also agree to send a copy of this Declaration to His Majesty, the King of England, to thank him for his acknowledgement of their flag; and in return for the friendship and protection they have shown, and are prepared to show, to such of his subjects as have settled in their country, or resorted to its shores for the purposes of trade, they entreat that he will continue to be the parent of their infant State, and that he will become its Protector from all attempts upon its independence.
Agreed to unanimously on this 28 day of October, 1835, in the presence of His Britannic Majesty’s Resident.
(Here follows the signatures or marks of thirty-five Hereditary chiefs or Heads of tribes, which form a fair representation of the tribes of New Zealand from the North Cape to the latitude of the River Thames.)
(Signed) Henry Williams, Missionary, C.M.S.
George Clarke, C.M.S.
James C. Clendon, Merchant.
Gilbert Mair, Merchant.
I certify that the above is a correct copy of the Declaration of the Chiefs, according to the translation of Missionaries who have resided ten years and upwards in the country; and it is transmitted to His Most Gracious Majesty the King of England, at the unanimous request of the chiefs.
(Signed) JAMES BUSBY, British Resident at New Zealand.
This copy of the Declaration was reproduced from an 1877 book of facsimile copies of the Declaration of Independence and the Treaty of Waitangi. The translation is from Archives New Zealand.