Today marks 176 years since te Tiriti o Waitangi the Treaty of Waitangi was signed between Māori and the Crown. It wasn’t until several months after the initial February signing that a version of the Treaty, known as the ‘Herald-Bunbury copy’, passed fleetingly through Hawke’s Bay. This was signed in June 1840, near the mouth of the Tukituki River by three local rangatira chiefs including Te Hāpuku, (Te Ikanui-o-te-moana) who had signed the Declaration of Independence in 1835, Hoani Waikato and Mahikai Harawira.
Over the last century and a half, the Hawke’s Bay community have gifted several Treaty-related items to the museum collection. There are early facsimiles of the 1835 Declaration of Independence and the Treaty of Waitangi, along with books discussing the Treaty that date from the late 1800s. There are mementoes of trips made to Waitangi including Hawke’s Bay businessman Russell Duncan’s 1880s photograph of the Treaty Monument, and an entry ticket and pamphlet from the Waitangi Treaty Grounds. In 1973, a Mr Buckley gifted some hand-forged copper nails “from the roof of the Treaty House at Waitangi”. One of the most significant items in the collection is missionary William Colenso’s journal containing the entry he made at Waitangi in 1840. This has been reproduced for exhibition in the new Museum of Waitangi which opens to the public today.
Last year, the network of Māori staff working in museums and galleries, Kāhui Kaitiaki, met at Waitangi. During this symposium, we stayed at Te Tii Marae and were able to visit the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, James Busby’s house, and see the construction of New Zealand’s newest museum underway. We heard about Ngā Tohu – Treaty Signatories, a research project to collate biographical information about those who signed the Treaty and also about the Archive Exhibition Project – to relocate the fragile Treaty manuscripts from Archives New Zealand to the National Library.
As a sector, New Zealand museums and art galleries have developed a Code of Ethics and Professional Practice which acknowledges the importance of the relationship between Māori and non-Māori established by the Treaty of Waitangi. The Code of Ethics accepts that the principles of tino rangatiratanga, laid out in Article 2 of the Treaty, apply to many aspects of the work museums and art galleries do.
One of the aspects of this work, and an approach unique to New Zealand museums is in regard to kōiwi tangata human remains, which commonly entered museum collections throughout the mid to late 1800s. During David Butts’ tenure, Hawke’s Bay museum staff worked closely with local and national iwi to remove these from the collection. Many museums in New Zealand are currently involved in similar work. In 2003, the Karanga Aotearoa Repatriation Programme was set up at Te Papa Tongarewa Museum of New Zealand by a government mandate. This programme actively seeks the return of ancestral kōiwi from museums all over the world and now leads international practice in the removal of human remains from museum collections.
As part of exhibition research and development MTG staff work with our local Māori community by developing informal relationships, but also maintain a more formal relationship with iwi through Te Rōpū Kaiāwhina Taonga. This group supports and advises the Director and museum staff regarding the significant collection of taonga Māori in the Hawke’s Bay collection. Members represent different areas within the Ngāti Kahungunu boundaries, and most have been involved with the museum for many years.
Tryphena Cracknell – Curator Taonga Māori, MTG Hawke’s Bay
Published in Hawke’s Bay Today Saturday 6 February 2016