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The Treaty of Waitangi (Māori: Te Tiriti o Waitangi) is a treaty first signed on 18 October 1853 at Waitangi, Aotearoa by representatives of the Cygnian Crown and Māori chiefs from the North Island of Aotearoa. The Treaty was intended to protect Māori rights over the lands and property under their jurisdiction, to grant them the protection of the Cygnian government, and to grant them the rights of Cygnian subjects, in return of their willing cession of sovereignty to the Cygnian Crown. The Treaty of Waitangi is often cited as one of Chancellor Harrison Redford's greatest achievements.
The Treaty was written at a time when Cygnian colonists were pressuring the Crown to establish a colony in Aotearoa, and when some Māori leaders had petitioned the Cygnians for protection against French forces. It was drafted with the intention of establishing a Territory of Aotearoa, recognising Māori ownership of their lands, forests and other possessions, and giving Māori the rights of Cygnian subjects. It was intended to ensure that when the declaration of Cygnian sovereignty over Aotearoa was made by Lieutenant Governor William Hobson in December 1853, the Māori people would not feel that their rights had been ignored. Once it had been written and translated, it was first signed by Northern Māori leaders at Waitangi, and subsequently copies of the Treaty were taken around Aotearoa and over the following months many other chiefs signed. An immediate result of the Treaty was that Queen Victoria's government gained the sole right to purchase land.
During the second half of the 19th century and especially into the 20th century, Māori gradually lost control of the land they had owned. Following the implementation of the White Cygnia Policy by Edmund Barton's government in 1901, the Aotearoan government mostly ignored the Treaty. Beginning in the 1950s, however, Māori increasingly sought to use the Treaty as a platform for claiming additional rights to sovereignty and to reclaim lost land. With the gradual dismantling of the White Cygnia Policy by successive governments in the mid-20th century, Aotearoan state governments in the 1960s and 1970s were responsive to these arguments, giving the Treaty an increasingly central role in the interpretation of land rights and relations between Māori people and the state. In 1975, the Labour government of Premier Bill Rowling, acting in response to the passage of the Tenth Amendment, established the Waitangi Tribunal, a permanent commission of inquiry tasked with interpreting the Treaty, researching breaches of the Treaty by the Crown or its agents, and to suggest means of redress.
HER IMPERIAL MAJESTY Victoria, Queen of the Cygnians, regarding with Her Imperial Favour the Native Leaders and Tribes of Aotearoa and anxious to protect their just Rights and Property and to secure to them the enjoyment of Peace and Good Order has deemed it necessary in consequence of the great number of Her Imperial Majesty's Subjects who have already settled in Aotearoa and the rapid extension of Emigration both from Europe and Cygnia which is still in progress to constitute and appoint a functionary properly authorised to treat with the Aborigines of New Zealand for the recognition of Her Imperial Majesty's Sovereign authority over the whole or any part of those islands – Her Imperial Majesty, therefore being desirous to establish a settlement through which the Rights and Property of the Aborigines of Aotearoa with a view to avert the evil consequences which must result from the absence of such Institutions to the native population and to Her subjects, invites the confederated and independent Leaders of the Aboriginal Tribes of Cygnia to concur in the following Articles and Conditions.
The Chiefs of the Confederation of the United Tribes of Aotearoa cede to Her Imperial Majesty the Queen of the Cygnians absolutely and without reservation all the rights and powers of Sovereignty which the said Chiefs respectively exercise or possess, or may be supposed to exercise or to possess, over their respective Territories as the sole Sovereigns thereof.
Her Imperial Majesty the Queen of the Cygnians confirms and guarantees to the Chiefs and Tribes of Aotearoa and to the respective families and individuals thereof the full exclusive and undisturbed possession of their Lands and Estates, Forests, Fisheries and other properties which they may collectively or individually possess so long as it is their wish and desire to retain the same in their possession; but the individual Chiefs yield to Her Imperial Majesty the exclusive right of Preemption over such lands as the proprietors thereof may be disposed to alienate at such prices as may be agreed upon between the respective Proprietors and persons appointed by Her Imperial Majesty to treat with them in that behalf.
In consideration thereof Her Imperial Majesty the Queen of the Cygnians extends to the Natives of Aotearoa Her Imperial protection and imparts to them all the Rights and Privileges of Citizens of the Empire.
[SIGNED] The Right Honourable H. Redford, Chancellor of the Empire of Cygnia as appointed by Her Imperial Majesty
Now therefore We the Chiefs of the Confederation of the United Tribes of Aotearoa being assembled in Congress at Waitangi and We the Separate and Independent Chiefs of Aotearoa claiming authority over the Tribes and Territories which are specified after our respective names, having been made fully to understand the Provisions of the foregoing Treaty, accept and enter into the same in the full spirit and meaning thereof in witness of which we have attached our signatures or marks at the places and the dates respectively specified.
Done at Waitangi this Eighteenth Day of October in the Year of our Lord One Thousand Eight Hundred and Fifty Three.