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Learn about He Tohu: A declaration, a treaty, a petition

July 23rd, 2019 By Samuel Beyer

Use the recently published learning activities and other quality resources to inspire and inform students' inquiry into concepts related to the 3 taonga of the He Tohu exhibition in Wellington:

  • 1835 He Whakaputanga (the Declaration of Independence)
  • 1840 Te Tiriti o Waitangi (the Treaty of Waitangi), and
  • 1893 Women's Suffrage Petition.
Mural of girl with fern for hair

RISE Street Art Festival by Jocelyn Kinghorn. Flickr. CC BY-SA 2.0.

Key concepts for learning

The 5 key concepts that underpin the He Tohu learning resources and activities are:

  • the documents
  • the people
  • place
  • living together
  • our future.

The documents


  • the mana of the original documents and the journey each has been through from their creation to the place they are in now
  • their fragility, and what’s involved in preserving them for future generations
  • differences in wording and meaning between Māori and English texts of Te Tiriti/the Treaty, along with how and why these versions were created
  • key differences between the processes involved in obtaining signatures for He Whakaputanga and Te Tiriti, compared with the Suffrage petition 50 years later
  • their respective impacts on New Zealand society.

The people


  • the key signatories to each of the documents
  • the main actors in the events around each document
  • who signed and who didn’t sign the documents and the reasons why
  • personal connections with signatories of these documents.



  • local meanings and national meanings
  • specific locations that were key to each of these founding documents, and some of the stories associated with them
  • the challenges presented by New Zealand’s geography on achieving signatures for each of the documents
  • New Zealand’s place in the world, and the impact of our small country leading the way through the principles and intentions of each document.

Living together


  • the impact of these documents on the rights and responsibilities of all New Zealand citizens
  • the principle of partnership and rights afforded to Māori as tangata whenua
  • the ongoing debates around rights and responsibilities
  • viewpoints around the meanings of the documents and how these could affect how we live together now and in the future.

Our future

  • become more aware of some of the issues New Zealand still has to address, to create a society in which Māori and Pākehā recognize each other as full Treaty partners, and where all cultures are valued for the contributions they bring
  • participate in the debate about New Zealand as an increasingly multicultural society founded on a bicultural Treaty, and what this might mean for key rights and responsibilities
  • gain a deeper appreciation of the need to preserve Māori language and culture, to ensure understanding and use by current and future generations.

Learning resources and activities

Use our English and te reo Māori resources and activities to help students explore these 5 key concepts:

He whakapapa kōrero, he whenua kura

This is the guiding vision for He Tohu.

Learning about the documents, the people, place, living together, and our future is a great way to engage students with this vision:

Talking about our past to create a better future.

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