On February 6, our friends in New Zealand will celebrate one of their most important holidays: Waitangi Day.
Back in 1840, the town of Waitangi hosted British representatives and leaders of the Maori (the native people of the land they then called Aotearoa, or “Land of the Long White Cloud”) for the signing of the so-called Waitangi Treaty. This is now considered the day New Zealand was officially founded, but it wasn’t always that way.
For years, the treaty was largely ignored – in fact, the Maori and the British were at war a mere five years later. Local resident James Busby’s house – where they treaty was signed and which would later be referred to as the Treaty House – fell into decrepitude. The treaty itself was not handled with much respect, and parts of it were even eaten by rats.
It wasn’t until one person, Governor-General Lord Bledsloe, bought the land in 1932 that things changed. He gave this parcel of Waitangi back to the country, and the Treaty House was restored. Interest in the agreement and the cooperation it represented was renewed. The day was first commemorated in 1934 and it became a public holiday in 1974. Today, it remains an important day for New Zealanders of both European and Maori ancestry – a day filled with events, discussion, remembrance, protest, and celebration.
Learning about the importance of Maori culture and the history of New Zealand is a big part of our Australia & New Zealand: An Adventure Down Under. Join us and experience this fascinating nation firsthand!