Tuesday, February 23, 2016
Bruce Moon:The Power of LanguageLabels: Bruce Moon, Language, Treaty of Waitangi
April this year (2016) will mark the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare. Just five years earlier, the King James Bible was published in England. Millions of people around the world today continue to enjoy the works of Shakespeare and take comfort and advice from that Bible's words. They can do this because those works were written in English 400 years ago and understood today.
Less than half that time in the past, Royal Navy Captain William Hobson was charged to obtain cession of New Zealand to the British Queen, given the "free intelligent consent of the natives, expressed according to their established usages" to whom he was to "frankly and unreservedly explain ... the reasons which should urge them to acquiesce." Those words are clear to us today. As an experienced naval officer, Hobson was accustomed to giving orders to men of little education – often lives depended on it. He will therefore have understood exactly how he was to proceed.
After several days spent in producing preliminary drafts, Hobson succeeded, on 4th February 1840, in producing a final draft in English of a document of cession which stated clearly and precisely the conditions to be agreed.
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Missionaries everywhere knew full well that to convey their message to native peoples, it was necessary to explain it in the language of those people. It was essential for them to learn that language. Seventeen years resident in New Zealand, Henry Williams was very competent in the Ngapuhi dialect of the Maori language and his son, Edward, was considered a scholar "without peer".
They were therefore an ideal pair to translate Hobson's draft to a document in Maori to present to the chiefs for their acceptance. This they did on the night of 4/5th February. Just one word, a minor change, was altered the following morning when it was reviewed by Busby and others.
Later that day, both documents were presented to a memorable meeting of chiefs and European settlers. Nobody expressed doubts about their saying the same thing. When shown both in 2000, Ngapuhi elder Graham Rankin declared that the meaning of both was the same.
The recorded words of chiefs at Waitangi and elsewhere later show beyond reasonable doubt that they understood that by signing they would cede sovereignty to the Queen. They signed. In return, all Maoris became fully-entitled British subjects, a magnificent gift, and the possession of their property of all the people of New Zealand was guaranteed.
That is all – clear and unequivocal – as when it was written 176 years ago. Yet many people today claim the contrary, amongst them Geoffrey Palmer who went on about "Delphic utterances" and stated that the treaty "is so vague that that is its primary problem". That is utter nonsense and, in my view, given his prominence, culpably wrong. It gives an excuse to those people who have twisted the treaty beyond recognition for material gain; millions in taxpayer assets being given to them for bogus reasons which fly in the face of what the Treaty truly said. Something is rotten in the state of New Zealand.
 The Colonial Secretary's brief to Hobson, 14th August 1839.
 This document has been dubbed the "Littlewood Treaty", a name used by treaty-twisters to discount it "because it was not signed", an entirely spurious reason for dismissing it.
 C. Orange chooses to deny this
 In fact and significantly, the Williams had inserted the additional word "Maori" in Article third because it applied only to Maoris, unlike Article second which applied to all the people of New Zealand. This difference is clear evidence that the "Littlewood Treaty" pre-dated the actual treaty and is not a later translation from the Maori, despite the claims by Orange and others that this is the case. All actual translations known to me include the word "Maori" or a synonym.
 Provision for sale of Maori land only to the Crown was included for their protection but soon became a dead letter.
 In an interview with Kim Hill, date uncertain
 ABC interview, 6th March 1990.
at 10:03 PM