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Whakawhitirā Waiapu, 25–31 May 1840

Tūranga-based missionary William Williams travelled along the East Coast between 5 May and 9 June 1840 to collect the signatures of rangatira (chiefs). He was accompanied by a teenaged student of Māori, George Clark Jnr, who acted as a second witness to the treaty signings.

Between 25 May and 1 June 1840 they gained 10 signatures in Waiapu, where the treaty was ‘well received’. [1] Seven signatures were gained between 25 and 31 May, and three on 1 June. From Waiapu the pair returned south, collecting four more signatures at Tokomaru on their way back to Tūranga (Gisborne).

Williams was anxious to block land purchases and ‘would undoubtedly have stressed the treaty’s promise to protect Maori land. Since February he had been trying to impress upon East Coast Maori the seriousness of the land situation’. Though he left no record of his discussions with chiefs, rumours that ‘seven shiploads of settlers were reputed to be arriving shortly from Cook Strait … added to Maori apprehensions. Their anxiety to protect their land rights was always acute; such circumstances would surely have predisposed them to accept the protective assurances built into the treaty.’ [2]

Williams expected to secure 70–80 signatures on the East Coast, but collected only 41.

[1] Claudia Orange, The Treaty of Waitangi, Allen & Unwin, Port Nicholson Press with assistance from the Historical Publications Branch, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington, 1987, p. 72

[2] Orange, pp. 71–2