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He waka eke noa — a canoe which we are all in

January 31st, 2018 By Samuel Beyer
Waka being paddled
Waka crew by Joanne. CC BY-NC 2.0

From first encounters between Māori and European explorers nearly 250 years ago to today, Aotearoa New Zealand's journey has been one of developing our identity and nationhood.

Like a waka voyaging across the water, at times the kaihoe (paddlers) have worked in unison — the journey smooth and fluid. In other circumstances, there has been discordance as various kaihoe have different rhythms — and the waka stalls or changes course.

On this shared journey of discovery, the more we know about where we’ve been the more we can paddle the waka towards a better destination.

Waitangi Day is a good catalyst to focus on teaching about the past to educate for the future. Consider too how you can advance the Treaty of Waitangi principle of the New Zealand Curriculum in your library.

Te Tiriti and Waitangi Day — fertile learning opportunities

6 February is our 'national day' to commemorate the 1840 signing of Te Tiriti o Waitangi (the Treaty of Waitangi), considered Aotearoa New Zealand's foundation document. As a public holiday since the 1970s, Waitangi Day can be a good opportunity to explore concepts of cultural identity, history, and nationhood. You can:

  • examine Te Tiriti o Waitangi itself
  • dive into the history of Waitangi Day
  • navigate wider ideas around Aotearoa New Zealand identity, history, and nationhood.

Examining Te Tiriti o Waitangi itself could include exploring:

  • exploring differences between the te reo Māori and English versions
  • exploring the 9 treaty documents — their stories and the locations where they were signed
  • considering the place Te Tiriti holds in contemporary Aotearoa New Zealand.

When you dive into the history of Waitangi Day , you could:

  • explore the events around the signing of the Te Tiriti on 6 February 1840
  • examine the history of the day itself — from first commemoration (1934) to public holiday (1974) to today
  • do some focused learning on the changing relationships between Māori and Pakeha.

Navigating wider ideas around Aotearoa New Zealand identity, history, and nationhood could look at:

  • continuity and change — from colonial times to the present
  • our bicultural heritage and multicultural present
  • varying perspectives and voices.

Resources for learning

By providing resources for your collection and access to digital resources, your library can support teaching and learning about Te Tiriti and the history of Waitangi Day. The National Library has a range of resources available for schools, including:

  • He Tohu
  • Topic Explorer
  • Many Answers.

The Ministry of Education's TKI (Te Kete Ipurangi) website also has some great resources.

He Tohu

The original Te Tiriti o Waitangi documents (1840) are part of the He Tohu exhibition at the National Library of New Zealand, Wellington. You can:

Topic Explorer

This resource helps you find quality, curated resources on a range of topics to support and inspire inquiry. Topic sets relevant for studies of, and around, Te Tiriti o Waitangi include:

Many Answers

Many Answers entries guide students to resources about popular topics, including:


Waitangi Day — how will you commemorate? has an extensive list of quality digital resources, including:

You can also bring learning to life by connecting with what is happening in your local community on, and around, Waitangi Day. Look at your local authority, local iwi, and other event-listing websites for activities to complement learning in the classroom.

Advancing the Treaty of Waitangi principle in your library

One of 8 guiding principles of the New Zealand Curriculum, the Treaty of Waitangi principle, states:

The curriculum acknowledges the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi, and the bicultural foundations of Aotearoa New Zealand. All students have the opportunity to acquire knowledge of te reo Māori me ōna tikanga.
The New Zealand Curriculum, p 9.

As explained in The Treaty of Waitangi principle New Zealand Curriculum Update, the 1988 Royal Commission on Social Policy suggested 'partnership, protection, and participation' as a framework to enact the Treaty of Waitangi in schools. Consider this for your school library.


In your role as a librarian:


As a kaitiaki (guardian) of knowledge:

  • clearly display te reo Māori / bilingual books in your library — decide on the merits of a distinct display of these books, or distribute them throughout the collection
  • enable easy access to te reo Māori digital resources
  • encourage students and teachers to engage with learning that incorporates a Māori perspective.


Develop your active engagement with te reo Māori me ōna tikanga by:

  • using te reo Māori greetings and signage in the library — including appropriate whakatauki to inspire thought and reflection
  • displaying art, motifs, and imagery that reinforce tikanga Māori concepts
  • encouraging the use of te reo in your library and across the school — this blog has links to a range of resources to use
  • implementing tikanga Māori values into how your library operates — whakamana, manaakitanga, pono, whanaungatanga — create an environment that is welcoming to Māori students and their whanau.

He waka eke noa — a canoe which we are all in

Providing resources and supporting learning about Te Tiriti and Waitangi Day, and advancing te reo Māori me ōna tikanga are all ways that your school library can keep the waka successfully moving through the seas of information, knowledge, and understanding.

Post a blog comment

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Maya Newton
9 February 2018 10:12am

This is AWESOME i want more of these sites thank you.

Nicole Gaston
7 February 2018 10:02am

Kia ora Terri, we suggest contacting Hinerangi Himiona who is coordinating Te Putake o Te Riri – Northern Wars commemoration in March, and the Waitangi Treaty Grounds Museum educator Monika Kern.
Ngā mihi,
Nicole on behalf of the S2S team

Terri Kessell
2 February 2018 6:38am

I'm teaching in Auckland. Can we (my students) contact someone in the far north with expertise on the Northern Wars of the 1840s?