Treaty of Waitangi – the Littlewood version

And excellent view of the ‘Littlewood Treaty” by archivist Greg J as posted at The Standard (with some links added):

Speaking as an Archivist and someone who has actually worked with the document in question the “Littlewood Treaty” – like so many things around the history of the Treaty is badly misunderstood and full of all sorts of red herrings and false assumptions (the Internet is great but it does allow a lot on unmitigated rubbish to be put up for people to read).

Despite the various conspiracy theories and ravings of loons like Ian Wishart the “Littlewood treaty” is not suppressed, hidden or ignored – it has been subject to quite intense study and investigation since it was “discovered” or rather “re-discovered” in 1989 by the Littlewood family in family papers. Once it was handed to Archives NZ (National Archives) it was unavailable for a short time while it received standard conservation and preservation treatment then went on permanent display in the Constitution room for anyone to view it.

Digital copies have existed since at least the late 1990′s and an online version has been available for at least the last 5 or 6 years. During the time it has been in the custody of the government it has been subject to fairly vigorous analysis by historians and academics.

Essentially, its proponents argue that a scrap of paper in Busby’s handwriting dated 4 February 1840, is the elusive “Final English Draft” which was given to Henry Williams to translate into Maori and contains phrases virtually identical to the Treaty, but that certain key words differ, thus giving an entirely different meaning to the Treaty.

For example, the accepted version of the Treaty (incidentally also drafted by Busby, on February 3) mentions “forests and fisheries”, whereas the February 4 “Littlewood” version does not. Its supporters cite this as evidence that most Treaty claims relating to forests and fisheries are therefore invalid.

First, on the matter of the dates, Busby’s 3 February 1840 (English) draft of the Treaty was handed to Hobson to comment on and amend as he saw necessary. Busby helped with the draft because Hobson had been too ill to work on it the previous day, but was recovering by the 3rd. What Busby may have written on February 4, or any time afterwards, is immaterial.

This is because he handed over the version he prepared on the 3rd – which includes the phrase “forests and fisheries” – to Hobson. Hobson approved that version, and it became part of what we now know as the Treaty of Waitangi. Hobson, not Busby, was the person with final authority to sign. In all likelihood, the “Littlewood” treaty is little more than a rough and hastily-written copy of the Treaty of Waitangi which Busby subsequently made for his personal records (no photocopiers or scanners in those days) and he dated it incorrectly.

There is NO evidence that the “Littlewood Treaty” it is some sort of final English draft which was then given to Henry Williams to translate into Maori (and which was subsequently signed on the 6th February). However even if it was the speculative “final English draft” it isn’t the English Version that was presented at Waitangi on the 6th – alongside the Maori version (which is what everyone signed).

And just to clarify further (from the Green Party Website):

The international legal doctrine of contra preferentum means indigenous language versions of treaties between indigenous peoples and colonising powers are the ones that must be adhered to where there is disagreement. Added to this, both Governor Hobson and most of the Maori chiefs signed the Maori language version. It is significantly different from the English. It guaranteed tino rangatiratanga at hapu level – the authority for a hapu to manage its own affairs.

The other thing which normally comes up is a claim is made by the supporters of the Littlewood Treaty that the phrase “all the people of New Zealand” – which appears in the Littlewood document – was surreptitiously written out of the Treaty.

This is based on two incorrect assumptions: that someone deliberately removed phrases from the Treaty, for which there is no evidence at all; and that this particular phrase should be interpreted as having applied to every person living in New Zealand in 1840 – both Maori and European.

The Littlewood proponents believe that this removes any possibility of Maori claiming sovereignty, because the rights ascribed exclusively to Maori in the Treaty would therefore be applied to everyone in the Littlewood version.

Such a postulation is demonstrably wrong, but the mistake is easy to make for anyone unfamiliar with the language of the period. The phrase “all the people of New Zealand” – in the setting of New Zealand in 1840 – would simply be another way of referring to Maori. There are several documents from this era in which this sort of phrase is used specifically to refer exclusively to Maori. It does not apply to Europeans, who are nearly always referred to in this period separately from “the people of New Zealand”.

The Littlewood documentation is historically interesting but in terms of the ongoing discussion of the Treaty it is irrelevant – the Treaty is the one signed by Hobson and the chiefs at Waitangi (the rat eaten one in Archives NZ) written in Maori and the subsequent copies sent around the country to be signed by other Chiefs (most in Maori – except for one sheet which is an English translation of the Maori).

That’s it – the “Littlewood Treaty” isn’t a Treaty because no one signed it – it is, at best, a draft and more likely an early (and slightly inaccurate) copy.

Thus, no further discussion about its treaty status needs to proceed.

(eg. The mortgage contract you sign is the one that actually holds legal force not an earlier draft that may have read before hand or a subsequent copy).

References:

Treaty of Waitangi (English version)

Treaty of Waitangi (Maori version)

Differences between the texts

View the Treaty

Text of the Littlewood draft

The “Littlewood Treaty”: An Appraisal of Texts and Interpretations (PDF)

Arguments for and against the ‘Littlewood treaty’

Treaty 2 U

Treaty of Waitangi Act 1975

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