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Te Tiriti o Waitangi — from its creation to now

Drawing of 3 masted sailing ship in a cove with tree covered shoreline

'H.M.S Herald in Sylvan Cove, Stewarts [sic] Island, 1840' by Edward M Williams. Ref: A-083-005 Alexander Turnbull Library. Some rights reserved.

The sailing ship HMS Herald brought the Treaty to the South Island. Edward Williams was an interpreter on the voyage.

Explore the journey Te Tiriti o Waitangi has taken — from its creation in Waitangi on 6 February 1840 to its preservation as a taonga for future generations in the He Tohu exhibition today.


  • Significance, preservation, identity, organisation, ceremony, protocols.
  • He Tohu themes: the documents, people, living together.

What to do

Find out about the parchment, paper, and ink used

Some sheets of Te Tiriti o Waitangi were made from parchment.

  • Get students to research how to make parchment.

Other sheets were made from rags.

  • Get students to research how to make rag paper and have a go.

Te Tiriti o Waitangi was scribed with iron gall ink.

  • Get students to research iron gall ink ingredients and the process for making it. Students can write this up as a 'recipe'.

Learn about the voyages of Te Tiriti o Waitangi

Students watch The voyages of Te Tiriti o Waitangi to learn about the voyage of the 9 sheets across New Zealand and then complete the following:

  1. Track the dates and locations of the journey of Te Tiriti on a map of New Zealand.
  2. How many places did Te Tiriti sheets go to? How long did it take to get the more than 500 signatures?
  3. Why were there so few signatures collected in the South Island?
  4. Do you think 6 February is the best day to celebrate the signing of Te Tiriti?

Discover how Te Tiriti was almost lost

Students watch Te Tiriti o Waitangi — nine lives and discuss the following:

  • How easily could the original documents have been lost?
  • Why were they not protected and consider taonga before they came into the guardianship of Archives New Zealand?

Students find other stories about the documents to create a timeline of the journey of Te Tiriti.

Understand Te Tiriti's history in He Tohu

Before the He Tohu exhibition opened, New Zealand’s 3 iconic constitutional documents moved from Archives New Zealand to the National Library of New Zealand in a historic and emotional predawn ceremonial procession.

Get students to read Moving the documents, watch the video on that web page, and answer the following questions:

  1. What protocols and ceremony surrounded the moving of New Zealand's founding documents from Archives New Zealand to the He Tohu exhibition in the National Library, Wellington?
  2. Why was it such a careful and significant ceremony?
  3. Why did this happen predawn?
  4. Who do you think was involved in the complete process?

He Tohu is a permanent exhibition of 3 iconic constitutional documents that shape Aotearoa New Zealand. To find out more, get students to watch He Tohu exhibition (YouTube video, 3:06). Discuss:

  • the importance of He Tohu
  • what interactions they could see
  • what information is available
  • why has so much time and effort has gone into creating He Tohu?

Find out about the conservation of Te Tiriti o Waitangi as a taonga

Get students to read:

Then answer these questions:

  1. What are the concerns about preserving this document today?
  2. What processes have had to happen in order to display the original Te Tiriti documents in He Tohu?
  3. What conditions have to be managed and monitored carefully?
  4. What occupations and skills would be involved with the process of moving the Te Tiriti documents from Archives New Zealand to He Tohu and the preservation of the original documents?
  5. What are the special materials and processes used to preserve Te Tiriti documents in He Tohu?
  6. How could the blank parchment be used to help preserve Te Tiriti?

Some useful resources

He Tohu:

Topic Explorer:

Archives New Zealand:


New Zealand Curriculum — social sciences

Conceptual strands:

  • Identity, Culture, and Organisation

Achievement objectives:

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