One sun in the sky

In 1908 the Tuhoe chief Rua Kenana came down from his mountain stronghold to discuss matters of state with Prime Minister Sir Joseph Ward. To Rua’s question on the issue of sovereignty, Ward replied – there can only be one sun in the sky. As we review the place of the Treaty in our constitution, we would do well to remember his words.

For more, see the New Zealand Herald this week Ewen McQueen: “There can only be one sun in the sky” and that’s the Crown 

Ewen McQueen
January 2013

This entry was posted in Economic Transformation, Treaty of Waitangi and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to One sun in the sky

  1. Mike Butler says:

    I agree with the view you expressed in your article “There can be only ‘one sun in the sky’ and that’s the Crown” that “rangatiratanga” has gained a lot in translation.

    I have been following Treaty of Waitangi issues since 2008 and compiled Treaty Transparency which is published at

    But I would like to point out the word “rangatiratanga” as it appeared in Te Tiriti was not used to mean “chieftainship” but was used to translate the word “possession”.

    The first sentence of Article 2 of Te Tiriti, which says “Ko te Kuini o Ingarani ka wakarite ka wakaae ki nga Rangitira ki nga hapu – ki nga tangata katoa o Nu Tirani te tino rangatiratanga o o ratou wenua o ratou kainga me o ratou taonga katoa” translates “The Queen of England confirms and guarantees to the chiefs and the tribes and to all the people of New Zealand, the possession of their lands, dwellings and all their property.”

    Because the treaty was drafted in English and translated into Maori, the meaning and intent of the treaty is clear in the original English draft.

    The word “possession” was translated into “rangatiratanga”.

    The Waitangi Tribunal, which has been given the sole authority to interpret the treaty, has reinterpreted “rangatiratanga” by saying it means as “promising to uphold the authority that tribes had always had over their lands and taonga”.

    The word “rangatiratanga” has only had this revised meaning since the treaty was translated back from the Maori text into English.

    This quest for meaning from the Maori text is akin trying to establish the meaning of writings by Dostoyevsky or Sartre by translating back from English into Russian or French. No literature scholar would ever do that.

    Therefore, why is the Waitangi Tribunal allowed to get away with such an abuse of scholarship over the Treaty of Waitangi?

    The mistranslation is either incompetence or fraud.

    A more extensive discussion of treaty texts titled “Fudged treaty push” is available at


    • Ewen McQueen says:

      Hi Mike
      I suppose the real issue is what “rangatiratanga” meant to Maori signing the Treaty.
      A rangatira was a chief – so chieftainship is probably the best translation.
      However as I point out in my article – it was understood by all to be chieftainship expressed within the overarching sovereignty of the Crown.


      • Mike Butler says:

        Hi Ewen,
        Imagining what chiefs may have understood in 1840 is an unsound basis for any argument.
        At Waitangi on February 5, 1840, both the English and Maori texts were read out and debated. Missionary WIlliam Colenso wrote an account of the debate in which several chiefs made clear statements that showed their understanding of the meanings of “sovereignty” and “possession”.
        Article 1 of the treaty dealt with sovereignty and Article 2 dealt with possession and how land was to be sold.
        The “rangatiratanga as chieftainship” proponents are confusing sovereignty with possession.
        The real issue is why did Hugh Kawharu, a claimant representing Ngati Whatua o Orakei, officially reinterpret the meaning of “rangatiratanga” without reference to the English language draft that the te tiriti was translated from. Was this incompetence or self-serving intent?


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