Six top resources that explain what really happened with the treaty signing

This Sunday 6 February, we acknowledge Waitangi Day – an important marker in the history of Aotearoa. Although we commemorate and remember the positive aspects of Te Tiriti, we must reflect on what went wrong and remind ourselves there are still wrongs that need to be righted.

For this month’s Top Tips, we’re highlighting a range of resources for you to read/listen/watch to further educate yourself on Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

We must acknowledge the past, and find the best way to move forward, together. Kia pai tō rā Waitangi, nā mātou katoa, nā te whānau o Te Ao Rangahau.

1. The signing of the Treaty of Waitangi

This brief overview gives a summary of what really happened in 1840. 

It’s not a huge read – so if you’re short on time, this could be the resource for you.

Read Waitangi Tribunal’s ‘The signing of the Treaty of Waitangi’

2. The Aotearoa History show: Te Tiriti o Waitangi

Hosted by RNZ’s William Ray and Leigh-Marama McLachlan, the pair take you through the story of Aotearoa and its people, from its geological origins to modern-day.

We’ve linked the Te Tiriti episode here, but we recommend you check out the full series – they’re short and sharp at around 15-20 mins per episode.

Watch Youtube episode

3. Te Tiriti o Waitangi: A Conversation with Dr. Hirini Kaa

Tāhuhu kōrero is a podcast bought to you by University of Auckland students who discuss why history matters.

This episode features esteemed lecturer, Dr Hirini Kaa, discussing the importance of knowing the history of Aotearoa, Te Tiriti, and why. 

How about putting your headphones on and listening away during your morning commute?

Listen now

4. RNZ’s Award-winning NZ Wars Docuseries

Presented by Mihingārangi Forbes, this documentary series is a must-watch for all New Zealanders who want to understand the roots of inequity in Aotearoa and why the fight for treaty justice continues today. It takes you beyond just the signing itself, examining the outcomes of Te Tiriti having not been honoured by the Crown.. 

Not only is each 45-minute episode enlightening, but they’re a piece of art to watch. Grab your popcorn for this one…

Watch the docuseries on RNZ

5. The Treaty of Waitangi – Claudia Orange

This is for those who might have a little more time up their sleeve.

Claudia Orange’s ‘The Treaty of Waitangi’ was the first comprehensive study of the treaty and deals with its place in New Zealand history from its making to the present day. 

The book covers the several treaty signings and the substantial differences between the Māori and English texts; the actions of coloniser governments determined to circumvent treaty guarantees; the wars that resulted from the Crown not honouring Te Tiriti and the struggle Māori continue to fight to enjoy the sovereignty they were guaranteed in Te Tiriti..

Get your hands on a copy

6. Waitangi – what really happened

This seven-part docudrama is focused entirely on what happened with te Tiriti. It follows an imaginary news reporter who travels back in time to cover the days leading up to the Treaty of Waitangi’s signing. 

Dropping the usual solemnity surrounding Aotearoa’s founding document, it uses humour and asides to camera to evoke the chaos and motives behind the treaty. 

Don’t let the fact that it’s a seven-part docuseries put you off – each episode is only around 10 minutes. 

Watch the TVNZ docuseries

Waitangi guided tour

This is a bit of a ‘bonus’ tip… as you can’t experience this from the comfort of your living room.

But if you do get the chance, we highly recommend travelling to Waitangi (when it is safe and sensible to do so) and getting the full educational experience on what took place.

You can take a walk through Aotearoa’s history on an informative guided tour of the expansive Treaty Grounds with friendly, experienced local guides. You’ll discover the amazing stories, people and events that shaped the past, present and future of Aotearoa New Zealand.

Find out more


This article has been reviewed by Hone Hurihanganui, Director of Engaging Well.

About Engaging Well

Evidence shows that Māori are disproportionately represented in negative statistics including health, education, and incarceration. This reality is unacceptable, unjust, and avoidable.

Engaging Well’s services address these inequities by educating, training, mentoring, and advising individuals, groups and organisations toward cultural intelligence, in order to engage effectively with Māori, so we can all live in a fair and just society.

Find out more about Engaging Well

Share
Scroll to Top