Revisit: A Walk At Waitangi – Rediscovering The Treaty

Misplacing 30 years, damaged by water, rats –  The Treaty of Waitangi.

Of all the things I’ve discovered recently, the most interesting and peculiar is this. The Treaty of Waitangi, our nation’s founding document was lost for nearly 30 years. At the time, this was something I couldn’t quite believe. Even now, a month later, I still find it mind boggling yet somehow very typically kiwi.

Much like the rediscovery of the treaty, I came across this information quite by chance. It was during a recent visit to the treaty grounds in the Bay Of Islands. It was a lovely fine morning and after a short 30 minute stroll along Te Ti Bay I found myself at the Treaty Grounds in Waitangi. With a good 30 minutes to spare before the next tour, I had decided to pass the time by looking through the Waitangi museum. I had been assured it was well worth a look so I figured, well, why not! 

I casually strolled through the various exhibits which I must confess was very captivating until I happened upon a display cabinet containing a very worn and ripped piece of paper that resembled a school notice that had been at the bottom of a child’s bag for some time. The document, as it turns out, was an exact copy of the actual Treaty.

It seems that after the initial signing at Waitangi on the 6th February 1840, the treaty then went on a kind of regional tour around New Zealand so other Maori chiefs could sign. Unfortunately the next year the document was nearly destroyed by fire. Then, sometime after 1877 it was ‘misplaced’ (for nearly 30 years) before being found by historian Thomas Hocken in 1908. 

The story goes that the highly esteemed Thomas Hocken was rummaging around in the basement of a Government building in Wellington when rolled up, thrown in a corner, damaged by water and eaten by rats, he discovered the Treaty of Waitangi. It was then damaged further when restoration work (a little DIY presumably) went horribly wrong. It was at this point, after misplacing it for 30 years, damaged by fire, water, rats and restoration work that everyone decided it was best to leave the thing alone, put it in a tin case and lock it up for another 50 years.

As I moved out of the museum into bright sunshine and towards a gathering crowd that I assumed was the tour party I was joining, I had two thoughts. Firstly, what other important national documents are we missing?  Secondly, has anyone thought to look for them in remote hay barns?

Te Whare Rūnanga At Waitangi

Carving at Te Whare Rūnanga – Buy 

When I was visiting Waitangi I went to the treaty grounds which is a very spiritual place. In the Upper Grounds there’s the Treaty House and also a Wharenui called Te Whare Rūnanga, which is a carved Māori meeting house. Inside the Wharenui we were allowed to take photos of all the wonderful carvings which are amazing to see.

Once I was home, and after processing the original image I decided to have a bit of fun with reflections, lines of symmetry and mirror lines to create this finished image.

Te Rau Aroha

Whare Maumahara – Buy 

In the Treaty grounds at Waitangi, I found the Te Rau Aroha Museum. Officially opened on the 5th February, 2020 the Museum aims to foster the understanding and struggle by Māori Battalion soldiers for equality as citizens in their own country. Now, there aren’t many places that I would call humbling, however the Te Rau Aroha Museum is one of them. During World War II the name Te Rau Aroha was given to a mobile canteen truck, which was sent from New Zealand to Māori Battalion soldiers who served on the battlefields overseas. Once near the front, the canteen became a place for soldiers to gather and hear the latest news broadcasts, while enjoying sweet treats from home. When a name had to be chosen for the new museum in the Treaty Grounds, naming it after the treasured Te Rau Aroha canteen truck seemed a logical choice.

Among the galleries inside the Museum, one is a Whare Maumahara or Memorial Gallery which is designed for visitors, descendants and whānau. The feature within the Memorial is a massive and extremely impressive large-scale wooden artform made up of thousands of pieces of beech kauri that fills the room. Surrounding this on all four walls are thousands of names of men who served in the Māori Pioneer Battalion and the 28 Māori Battalion from both World Wars. Feeling humbled, I left the museum and headed for an extremely large waka.

Te Rau Aroha Museum

Te Rau Aroha MuseumBuy or view the Ōtepoti | Dunedin gallery

While walking at Waitangi ……
I found my way back to Te Rau Aroha Museum, which is located inside the treaty grounds itself. I had walked past it earlier, however with a culture show about to start, which I didn’t want to miss, I had made the decision to visit the museum on my return.

Te Rau Aroha Museum is a stunning and sobering experience. Divided into three galleries, the first gallery tells the story of the Māori commitment to the armed forces including the New Zealand Wars,  the Boer War, and a focus on the Pioneer Battalion of World War I and the 28 (Māori) Battalion of World War II. The second gallery tells the personal stories of the soldiers and their whānau from the 28 (Māori) Battalion’s while the third gallery is a contemplative Whare Maumahara (house of memories) for visitors, descendants and whānau. 

Waitangi Flag

Waitangi Flag, Waitangi – Buy

If you get the opportunity to go to the Treaty Grounds at Waitangi in the Bay Of Islands, it’s definitely a must do. Next time your own Instagram, if you look up the hashtag #mustdonz it won’t be to long before images of the treaty grounds pop up. It truly is a special place that gives you a much deeper understanding of the treaty, and possibly a different outlook on it.

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