First New Zealand flag

Tēnā Tātou te iwi. Coming up later this week, 20 March to be precise, is the anniversary of the hui held at Waitangi in 1834 where the first New Zealand flag was chosen. 25 chiefs from the Far North and their followers gathered to choose a flag to represent New Zealand. A number of missionaries, settlers and the commanders of 10 British and 3 American ships were also in attendance. Following an address from the British Resident James Busby, each chief was called forward in turn to select a flag, while the son of one of the chiefs recorded the votes. The preferred design, a flag already used by the Church Missionary Society, received 12 out of the 25 votes, with the other two designs receiving 10 and 3 votes respectively. Busby declared the chosen flag the national flag of New Zealand and had it hoisted on a central flagpole, accompanied by a 21-gun salute from HMS Alligator.

Known as the flag of the United Tribes, this flag acquired a more complex symbolism over time, eventually being seen as 'the Māori flag', and used as a symbol of protest in the 19th century. The issue of a New Zealand flag is an important part of the broad survey of New Zealand in the 19th century in the build up to the Treaty of Waitangi. It has real relevance to those considering topics that address themes such as national identity. In recent years there has been plenty of public debate as to whether New Zealand needs a new flag. The material provided on NZHistory helps to put this debate into a broader context. Junior social studies classes can find activities relating to this here.

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