History of the Māori Kings of New Zealand

  May 12, 2009 at 10:19 pm by

New Zealand was first settled by the Māori, and they were later followed (in the early 1800s) by European whalers and sealers, before gradually missionaries and traders arrived. On February 6 1840 the Treaty of Waitangi was signed; in the Treaty Māori ceded ‘sovereignty’ or ‘guardianship’ to HM The Queen of England, and in return they were granted the status of her citizens. Later, problems began to arise as it became apparent that the English and the Māori had different concepts of what such terms (and others of large significance in the Treaty) meant. This poor situation was worsened even further in that the Treaty was signed in either English or Māori – and it has since been recognised that words in the different versions do in fact most likely have different meanings.

Following the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, the Crown began to purchase lands from the Māori. The election of a Māori King in 1858 was a response from the chiefs of the North Island; initially the Governor’s response to the new King was to seize three million acres of land.

It has been noted by historians that at the time the first Māori King was elected, there were other chiefs of equal rank, and they did not all want to cede authority to King Potatau Te Wherowhero. However, King Potatau and his son were successful in uniting many Māori people when it was greatly needed.

King Potatau Te Wherowhero was a chief in the Waikato, and he had not signed the Treaty. King Potatau reigned only until 1860, when he was succeeded by his son Tawhiao.

Following the death of the Maori Queen, Dame Te Atairangikaahu, her eldest son Tuheitia Paki (born 1955) became the seventh Maori Monarch. He was proclaimed and crowned King on the day of his mother’s funeral, 21 August 2006. The unity that King Potatau Te Wherowhero and his son inspired in Māori in those difficult years in which New Zealand began the long process of finding her feet, is suggested to still hold strong and true today, securing the Māori King’s role in today’s society.

For more information about Māori royals, see this thread.

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