• Michaela Selway

The Violation of Article Two in Te Tiriti o Waitangi: The Taranaki Land Wars and Parihaka

Article Two in the Treaty of Waitangi, in which the sole right of land purchasing was given to the Crown, was included in Te Tiriti of Waitangi in order to protect Māori from the demand for land sales that would result due to the influx of settlers [1]. This was important as it recognized the significance of land to the Māori identity and their mātauranga (knowledge/wisdom) [2]. Land was not only a shared space for the iwi by which they could sustain themselves, but it was not owned by any one person. This idea was later challenged by the Native Land Court, which required a land title to have a maximum of ten names in order to be legally recognized. One of the main factors that contributed to the Native Land Courts creation was the lack of coherence between the Māori and English translations of the Treaty. For example, the word kāwanatanga was used in replace of mana in order to undermine the legitimacy of Māori right to their land [3]. Furthermore, kāwanatanga was a new concept that Māori did not fully understand to be a replacement of their rangatiratanga at the time of the signing [4]. This inferred that from 1840, Māori and Pakeha understandings of the role of the Treaty in defining their relations were not corresponding, but rather, were vague and highly contradictory. Disastrously, this miscommunication resulted in one of the most violent episodes in New Zealand history.

For the Crown, the purchase of Māori land was required in order to facilitate rapid colonisation and settlement. In 1844, Governor Fitzroy breached the treaty by waiving the pre-emptive right of the Crown in order to attempt this settlement [5]. Though the next Governor reinstated this clause, Fitzroy’s actions showed that by only four years after the signing of the Treaty, for some Pakeha, the Treaty had served its purpose and was no longer necessary [6]. Adversely, land sales did not increase due to Māori objection, thus resulting in the government establishing the Native Land Court (NLC) in 1862 [7]. The aim of the NLC was to eliminate tribal ownership and establish individualisation, thereby ensuring the ease of Pakeha purchase and settlement [8]. However this Land Court did not just facilitate sales, it encroached upon Māori values. Land became a commodity, attacking the Māori concept of tūrangawaewae (land as an ancestral home with a spiritual connection and not just a product with monetary value) [9]. Furthermore, it began to fragment Māori communities as only one owner had to consent to a sale rather than all who lived on the land [10]. Though many Māori benefited economically from betraying their hapu, for the majority the NLC quickly became a metaphor for loss and land alienation [11]. Disastrously, this court process was mandatory in order for Māori land to be legally recognized. It came at the price of Māori mātauranga and the treaty’s guarantee of tino rangatiratanga (absolutely sovereignty) [12].

During the 1880s, Governor Grey established rūnanga (Māori assemblies or councils) in order to act as a Māori government that assessed the situation of lost mana. Linked with the Repudiation Movement, these rūnanga joined together to form the Kotahitunga movement [13]. They sought to rectify past grievances that Pakeha had committed against Māori in order to restore the relationship built by the Treaty of Waitangi [14]. Similarly to the Repudiation Movement, the rejection of land sales was crucial to the Kotahitunga movement’s objectives [15]. One such Kotahitunga movement was Pai Mārire, founded by Te Ua Haumēne in the 1860s. Separate from the Kotahitunga movement, the Kīngitanga movement sought to establish a monarchy distinguished from the British Crown yet equal. This movement was established in response to the government’s failure to represent Māori rights as entrenched in the Treaty of Waitangi [16]. They aimed to ‘consolidate a sense of Māoriness’ by bonding together Māori from all tribes as a comparison to the settler society and restrict land alienation, a process they feared would lead to their extinction [17]. Central to the Kīngitangi ideology was the concept of cooperating with the Crown in order to obtain their objectives. However, this ideology was often misconstrued, resulting in disastrous cross-cultural conflicts such as the Taranaki Land Wars and the Parihaka incident [18].

Many settlers, especially those with influence such as Governor Browne, maintained that the King movement rejected British sovereignty, the treaty, the mana of the Queen and thereby the process of colonisation [19]. These tensions manifested into the Taranaki Land Wars when Wiremu Kingi Te Rangitake overruled the Governor’s attempt to purchase his land since he had negotiated with an independent rangatira [20]. The Governor refused to acknowledge Wiremu’s authority and resumed surveying his land. When Wiremu established a pā to protect his lands, Browne ordered an attack [21]. As a result, Māori who fought alongside the Kingi were considered rebels and their land was confiscated [22]. This conflict revealed the underlying tensions of this era that focalized on the relationship between the Treaty’s guarantee of rangatiratanga and sovereignty [23]. An exacerbated example of these tensions materialized in the village of Parihaka. The unified community sought to set itself apart from the Crown through separate laws and its own religious faith. Geography played a key role in the outset of this conflict since Parihaka was situated at the centre of confiscated land. This community in particular sought to preserve peace even at the price of expulsion [24]. Native Minister John Bryce ordered the plundering of the village in search of rumoured weapons that were to be used against the Pakeha government. Even when met with songs and amiable hospitality, Bryce ordered his men to arrest the rangatira, Te Whiti and Tohu, and demolish the buildings on the justification of treason. Despite these false claims that resulted in the rangatiras imprisonment, both encouraged their people to remain peaceful [25]. This incident in particular reveals that the Crown no longer held any responsibility for the ratification of the principles outlined in the Treaty of Waitangi [26].

The dilemma of land became an obstacle that defined the era 1840 to 1920 in New Zealand history. In order to establish a colony, facilitating colonisation and settlement, the Crown required land, a process that quickly transcended in importance above maintaining the principles of the Treaty. This land was, however, central to Māori mātauranga and tūrangawaewae. The NLC and land confiscation were employed to expedite the process of land alienation, despite being in violation of Article Two of the Treaty. As a response, Māori unified through pan-tribal and passive resistance. Regrettably, the Crown utilized these movements to present the Māori as rebels who were opposed to the Treaty, thus resulting in the horrific episodes of violence witnessed in Taranaki and Parihaka.


[1] Paul Monin, Hauraki Contested: 1769-1875, Wellington, 2001, p.104; Mason Durie, Te Mana Te Kawanatanga: The Politics of Maori Self-Determination, Oxford, 1998, p.118.

[2] Vincent O’Malley, The Great War for New Zealand: Waikato 1800-2000, Wellington, 2016, p.96.

[3] Durie, Te Mana Te Kawanatanga, p.3.

[4] Giselle Byrnes, Boundary Markers: Land Surveying and the Colonisation of New Zealand,

Wellington, 2001, p.17.

[5] Monin, Hauraki Contested, p.115.

[6] Claudia Orange, The Treaty of Waitangi, Wellington, 1987, p.174.

[7] Durie, Te Mana Te Kawanatanga, p.118.

[8] David V. Williams, ‘Te Kooti tango whenua’: The Native Land Court 1864-1909, Wellington, 1999, p.82, 142; Augie Fleras, ‘Towards ‘Tu Tangata’: Historical Developments and Current Trends in Maori Policy and Administration’, Political Science, 37, 1, Waterloo, 1985, p.20.

[9] Ballara, ‘The Pursuit of Mana?’, p.531.

[10] Ballara, ‘The Pursuit of Mana?’, p.536.

[11] Monin, Hauraki Contested, p.148; Byrnes, Boundary Markers, p.96.

[12] Williams, ‘Te Kooti tango whenua’, p.142.

[13] Orange, The Treaty of Waitangi, p.180.

[14] Orange, The Treaty of Waitangi, p.174.

[15] Anderson, Tangata Whenua, p.272.

[16] Orange, The Treaty of Waitangi, p.136.

[17] O’Malley, The Great War for New Zealand, p.88; Orange, The Treaty of Waitangi, p.137; Monin, Hauraki Contested, p.171.

[18] Dick Scott, Parihaka Invaded, Wellington, 2014

[19] Orange, The Treaty of Waitangi, p.138.

[20] Anderson, Tangata Whenua, p.228.

[21] Ward, An Unsettled Treaty, p.120.

[22] Ward, An Unsettled Treaty, p.131.

[23] Anderson, Tangata Whenua, p.229; Orange, The Treaty of Waitangi, p.138.

[24] Anderson, Tangata Whenua, p.263.

[25] Scott, Parihaka Invaded; Anderson, Tangata Whenua, pp.263-6.

[26] Orange, The Treaty of Waitangi, p.189.


Michaela Selway is the co-founder of Tāhuhu Kōrero and a Master of Arts student in History at the University of Auckland, studying how biblical ideas on Origin Myths, Morality, Prophecies and Gender Roles were projected into Chronicles throughout the Middle Ages in Europe. All posts by contributing authors reflect their own thoughts, opinions and experiences, and do not necessarily represent the perspectives of the University of Auckland History Society.

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