The Treaty of Waitangi

The Treaty of Waitangi was signed in 1840 and was a key turning point in New Zealand history. The signatories were the Maori chiefs and representatives of the United Kingdom. New Zealand was then officially part of the British Empire and Maori people were given the same legal rights as British people. However, this was not a straightforward, peaceful agreement.

There were a number of disagreements over the wording and translation of the Treaty, which led to many disputes between the Maori and the British. Settlers wanted to obtain some of the Maori lands and as a result, the New Zealand Wars broke out in 1843. This did not deter settlers from Britain, who arrived in droves throughout the 19th century and during the early part of the 20th century.

The treaty led to the eventual impoverishment of the Maori people. The settlement of the British and other Europeans brought new infectious diseases to the country which had a devastating effect. The British also brought with them a new legal and economic system. As a result, most of the Maori lands based into European hands and the Maori were left with very little.

The arrival of Christianity

It was a man named Samuel Marsden, a British arrival, who carried out the first missionary work in New Zealand. He arrived in 1814 at the Bay of Islands and as part of his work with the Church Missionary Society of the Church of England he was able to construct a mission station there. This led to no less than 20 mission stations being constructed by 1840 in various places across the country.

The missionaries who arrived in the country to try to bring Christianity to the Maori did more than introduce them to a new religion though. They were able to teach them about trades and how to earn money from their work. They also taught them how to read and write and they were able to pass on European farming techniques to help make their agriculture work more successful and productive.

In return, the Maori also helped the missionaries to understand their culture and language. Samuel Lee was a linguist and he worked with Hongi Hika, one of the Maori chiefs, to understand and transcribe the Maori language, giving it a written form for the first time. This work led to the translation of two books of the Bible into Maori by 1835 and these were printed by the Church Missionary Society.

Prior to the arrival of Christianity, the Maori had their own faith and belief system, but some did accept the new religion, joining both the Church of England and the Catholic Church, which arrived a little later.

New Zealand early history

It is estimated that the history of New Zealand as a nation dates back to around 1320-1350 CE, which is when the islands were discovered by the Polynesian peoples who decided to settle there. It was the Polynesians that developed the Maori culture in New Zealand. Dating the exact arrival of the Maori people is not easy as nothing connected to human activity has been found that predates the Mount Tarawera volcano eruption, which occurred around 1314 CE.

However, analysis of DNA shows that it is likely the Maori people arrived from East Polynesia and it is thought that this could have been part of an organised, mass migration. New Zealand was abundant in animal and plant life and provided to be an ideal home.

These early settlers survived by hunting the large game available on the islands, and by about 1500 CE some species became extinct as a result. This led the Maori people to give horticulture more importance, and where the land permitted, they grew plants such as taro and kumara, among others. In other areas they made the most of the native plants and other food sources such as fish.

Maori tribe structure

The Maori people developed their own system of leadership within their tribes. This is based on chieftainship and occasionally this was a hereditary responsibility passed down through families. Chiefs could be either male or female but there was an expectation that they would prove that they were able to lead others. If they didn’t, their leadership could be challenged and it was not uncommon for leadership of tribes to change as a result of a challenge.

The extended family was an integral part of the culture of the Maori. A Maori tribe would be constructed from several groups of families, known as ‘hapu’. The tribe was known as ‘iwi’. While the hapu would work together to trade or on other projects, it was not uncommon for them to experience conflict and disputes would frequently break out.

Maori history was rarely written down. It was preserved in oral form, with stories and songs. Experts in the tribes memorised long genealogies and were able to recite them going back hundreds of years. While some of their stories have been lost to the passage of time, there are still some Maori who are able to recite the histories.

New Zealand’s own Gold Rush

The gold rush in New Zealand is referred to as the Otago Gold Rush. This took place in the 1860s and it was the biggest gold strike in the country. As a result, many foreign miners came to the area and some of them had worked on other big gold strikes in places such as California and Australia.

While the rush started at a place called Gabriel’s Gully, it spread throughout the Central Otago region, leading to the development of the then very small settlement of Dunedin. It rapidly became one of the largest cities in New Zealand. People abandoned the smaller settlements to move to Dunedin.

The Maori people knew that there was gold in the Central Otago region but they had no interest in it as they had no use for it. Europeans did find some small quantities of gold near to the town of Palmerston in the 1850s but the size of the find did not attract miners.

Gabriel Read was an Australian who had mined for gold in many places before. He found evidence of gold in 1861 in a creek bed at a place now known as Gabriel’s Gully. This is close to the town of Lawrence. He published a letter about his find, although the rush did not start straight away until it was confirmed that he and a local council member had surveyed various points in the region and found gold almost everywhere.

Within a few months there were 14,000 prospectors in the area and further goldfields were discovered, most named after the prospector that discovered them. Most were abandoned by the prospectors by 1863, but companies continued to mine in the area.

New Zealand and the Europeans

It is recorded that the first arrival of a European in New Zealand took place in 1642 when Abel Tasman, the Dutch explorer, reached New Zealand shores. He was responsible for charting the North Island’s west coast. However, his visit was notable for the fact that he never actually walked on land here. He simply went back to Batavia when his trip was done.

It was then left to James Cook, the British explorer, to take more of an interest in New Zealand. He arrived in 1769 for the first time and did visit the country on a further two occasions in his career. He became the first European to sail all around the islands and he was also responsible for mapping the country too. It was due to his work that New Zealand began to attract other explorers, along with traders and missionaries.

The Treaty of Waitangi proved to be a key turning point in the nation’s history. It was an agreement between the Maori people and the British, signed in 1840, which made the country part of the British Empire. However, this did not work out as planned for the Maori people. More and more British and other European settlers arrived, bringing with them infectious diseases and demands for land. The Maori people fell into impoverishment as a result. It was in the 1950s that greater recognition of the Treaty was achieved, after protests from the Maori people following further changes in their culture and lifestyle.

The British imposed a government in New Zealand in the 1850s and the New Zealand parliament was set to be one of the most progressive of its time. It was one of the first to introduce pensions for the elderly and the vote for women, and over time it developed a comprehensive welfare state.

New Zealand was also a very active part of the British Empire. During World War I it is estimated that 100,000 New Zealanders helped to defend Europe. The country was also a signatory to the Treaty of Versailles at the end of the war and joined the League of Nations. The support for their European counterparts was also evident in World War II where 120,000 New Zealanders signed up to fight, helping the Allies in both Europe and the Pacific.

History of women in New Zealand

The feminist movement in New Zealand dates back to the 1860s and women in the country campaigned on a number of issues before finally winning the right to vote in 1893. Middle-class women who were part of the feminist movement used newspapers to communicate with each other and set out their agenda. Women notably worked together on various campaigns, including the campaign for the Contagious Diseases Prevention Act.

It is estimated that in 1893 when women were first permitted to vote in New Zealand, over 90,000 cast a vote in the elections. It was not until 1919 that women were allowed to stand for election to the New Zealand parliament and unfortunately it took until 1933 for New Zealand to see its first female MP.

By the 1880, women in New Zealand were referring to the oppression of women as ‘white slavery’. They campaigned to make the streets a safer place and demanded that men take responsibility for giving women the right to walk safely in towns and cities. During World War I, the women of New Zealand campaigned successfully to put a stop to prostitution.

Maori women were not excluded from the feminist movement but they were able to develop their own type of feminism. This had its roots in the culture’s nationalism, rather than taking a lead from the European style of feminism.

It was in 1893 that the first female mayor in the history of the British Empire was elected. Her name was Elizabeth Yates and she was elected to the post in the town of Onehunga. During her time in office she proved herself to be more than capable of being a successful leader. She was able to cut the town’s debt and restructured the fire brigade. She developed initiatives to improve the town’s roads and sanitation systems. Naturally there were a lot of men who were unhappy about a woman being mayor and due to their hostility, she did not get re-elected.

There were a number of organisations set up by and for women in New Zealand, including the Women’s International League, the National Council of Women and the Women’s Christian Temperance Movement. They continued to organise campaigns about issues that are important to them, including campaigns against conscription and compulsory military training.