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Bay of Islands, 13? May 1840

In mid-May the Waitangi sheet of the Treaty of Waitangi was signed in the Bay of Islands in the presence of Lieutenant-Governor William Hobson and Ensign A.D.W. Best. Claudia Orange has suggested the signing was in the second week of May, possibly on 13 May. Erima Henare, a descendant of Kawiti, has suggested the signing took place on 20 May.

Four chiefs signed. Te Ruki Kawiti and Te Tirarau Kūkupa signed above the signatures on the Waitangi sheet, Kawiti with a section of his moko (facial tattoo) and Te Tirarau with circle around a cross. Taurau Kūkupa and Te Roha signed to the right of them, in third and fourth position on the second row. Only their names, which they may have written themselves, were recorded. There are no official witness signatures for this signing, as they were included with the signatures of 6 February.

Hobson had been eager to gain the signature of Kawiti after hearing rumours, confirmed by Nōpera Pana-kareao on 28 April, that the chief was involved, along with the Hokianga, Whangaroa and Taiāmai tribes, in a plot to kill Hobson and force Pākehā out of New Zealand. When questioned on 13 May, Kawiti admitted to this and explained that it was due to the improper giving out of tobacco at the 5 February meeting at Waitangi, which Kawiti had attended (though he refused to sign the treaty on 6 February). According to Best, Kawiti became violent as the signing began but eventually decided to sign. Kawiti still had his doubts, but Hobson was satisfied to have gained his signature.

Ngāti Manu rangatira Pōmare II, who signed the Waitangi treaty sheet on 17 February at Waitangi, had promised Hobson in a meeting in late April that he would persuade Kawiti to sign the treaty, and would try to influence others. On 5 May, the Wesleyan (Methodist) missionary James Buller of Kaipara wrote to Willoughby Shortland, the colonial secretary, that Te Tirarau was travelling to the Bay of Islands, and that ‘his disposition toward the government appeared to be good’.

Te Tirarau, his son Taurau and his brother Te Roha signed the treaty willingly. This may have been due to their exposed position and fear of revenge from victims of earlier Ngāpuhi raids. Presents were given to the rangatira before they left for home on the same day.

Kawiti’s issues with the treaty led him to fight the Crown within a few years. In 1845 he joined Hōne Heke Pōkai in his attack on Kororāreka, where he created a diversion while Heke cut down the flagstaff (which was flying a British Union Jack flag) for the last time. His forces were involved in the Northern War of 1845–6 against British troops and their Māori allies.



Signature number Click to sort this column in Ascending order Signed as Probable name Tribe Hapu
1 Kawiti Te Ruki Kawiti Ngāpuhi Ngāti Hine
2 Te Tirarau Te Tirarau Kūkupa Ngāpuhi Te Parawhau, Te Uri-o-Hau?
27 Taurau Kukupa Taurau Kūkupa Ngāpuhi Te Parawhau
28 Teroha Te Roha Ngāpuhi Te Parawhau