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.