Actually, the word “rangatiratanga” was used in the Maori text to translate the word “possession”. Since the treaty was drafted in English then translated into Maori, the intent and meaning of the treaty is crystal clear in the English draft, and, as a result of limited Maori vocabulary in 1840 and a limited understanding of the concepts of sovereignty and ownership by Maori, the intent and meaning became less clear in the Maori translation.
Translations back from Te Tiriti with its less-clear phrasing result in an increasing lack of clarity that has increased with time and as self-interest and the possibility of financial gain clouded the issue. Look at how the word “possession”, in Article 2 of the treaty, was translated into “tino rangatiratanga” in Te Tiriti, and translated back into an array of different meanings over the years:
Busby February 4 draft, Article 2
The Queen of England confirms and guarantees to the chiefs and the tribes and to all the people of New Zealand, the possession of their lands, dwellings and all their property. But the chiefs of the Confederation of United Tribes and the other chiefs grant to the Queen, the exclusive rights of purchasing such lands as the proprietors thereof may be disposed to sell at such prices as may be agreed upon between them and the person appointed by the Queen to purchase from them.
Te Tiriti o Waitangi, February 6, 1840
Ko te Kuini o Ingarani ka wakarite ka wakaae ki nga Rangatira ki nga hapu – ki nga tangata katoa o Nu Tirani te tino rangatiratanga o o ratou wenua o ratou kainga me o ratou taonga katoa. Otiia ko nga Rangatira o te wakaminenga me nga Rangatira katou atu ka tuku ki te Kuini te hokonga o era wahi wenua e pai ai te tangata nona te wenua – ki te ritenga o te utu e wakaritea ai e ratou ko te kai hoko e meatia nei e te Kuini hei kai hoko mona.
Freeman official English text, Article 2
Her Majesty the Queen of England confirms and guarantees to the Chiefs and Tribes of New Zealand and to their respective families and individuals thereof the full exclusive and undisturbed possession of their Lands and Estates Forests Fisheries and other properties which they may collectively or individually possess as long as it is their wish and desire to retain the same in their possession; but the Chiefs of the United Tribes and the individual chiefs yield to Her Majesty the exclusive right of Pre-emption over such lands as the proprietors thereof may be disposed to alienate at such prices as may be agreed upon between the respective proprietors and persons appointed by Her Majesty to treat with them in that behalf.
Native Department 1869 official translation from Maori, Article 2
The Queen of England arranges and agrees to give the Chiefs, the Hapus, and all the people of New Zealand, the full chieftainship of their lands, their settlements and all their property. But the Chiefs of the Assembly, and all other Chiefs, gives to the Queen the purchase of those pieces of land which the proprietors may wish, for such payment as may be agreed upon by them and the purchaser who is appointed by the Queen to be her purchaser.
Hugh Kawharu 1987 translation from the Maori, Article 2
The Queen of England agrees to protect the chiefs, the subtribes and all the people of New Zealand in the unqualified exercise of their chieftainship over their lands, villages and all their treasures. But the Chiefs of the Assembly, and all other Chiefs, gives to the Queen the purchase of those pieces of land which the proprietors may wish, for such payment as may be agreed upon by them and the purchaser who is appointed by the Queen to be her purchaser.
Margaret Mutu, 2010, Weeping Waters translation from Maori, Article 2
The Queen of England agrees and arranges for the heads of the tribal groupings, for the tribal groupings and all the people of New Zealand, their paramount and ultimate power and authority over their lands, their villages and all their treasured possessions. However, the Chiefs of the Confederation and all the chiefs will allow the Queen to trade for (the use of) those parts of land which those whose land it is consented to, and at an equivalent of price as arranged by them and by the person trading for it (the latter being) appointed by the Queen as her trading agent.
The word “possession” appears in the Busby February 4 text and in the Freeman official English text, appears as “tino rangatiratanga” in Te Tiriti, and appears as “chieftainship”, "full chieftainship", and "their paramount and ultimate power and authority" in translations, which creates a basis for the argument that sovereignty was not ceded.
At Waitangi on February 5, 1840, Governor William Hobson read the English language text of the treaty, missionary Henry Williams read the Maori text, and during the subsequent debate involving numerous people fluent in English and Maori, there was no clamour about gross discrepancies between the English and Maori texts.
Over the years, while it was apparent that there were discrepancies between the English and Maori texts, it was not an issue until Maori self-government activists in the late 20th century started to argue that sovereignty was not ceded because chiefs thought they were only giving up kawanatanga in article 1 and retained "chieftainship" (the dodgy back-translation of "tino rangatiratanga") in article 2.
The Human Rights Commission appears to continue this campaign by saying “in 1840, rangatiratanga was attributed to hapū in the treaty. Today rangatiratanga resides in whanau, hapu, iwi and marae. Some national pan-Maori organisations practice rangatiratanga. Those institutions have a diverse range of ways through which they express their rangatiratanga. These can be seen in the structures, institutions, and rules used to make decisions that determine the protection and development of their taonga”.
“Rangatiratanga” was used to translate the word “possession”. To argue that “rangatiratanga resides in whanau . . . ” or “some practise rangatiratanga”, or “express their rangatiratanga” is like saying “possession resides in whanau” or “some practise possession”, or “express their possession”, which sounds like nonsense.
Yes, Joris de Bres remains the Race Relations Commissioner until the end of his term next month.