Tino rangatiratanga

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Tino rangatiratanga
is important to Maori and New Zealand culture and politics. Here the phrase is highlighted as it appears in the printed copies of the Treaty of Waitangi, as part of article two (ko te tuarua
). Treaty of Waitangi - Articles printed in Maori, with "tino Rangatiratanga" highlighted.tif
Tino rangatiratanga is important to Māori and New Zealand culture and politics. Here the phrase is highlighted as it appears in the printed copies of the Treaty of Waitangi, as part of article two (ko te tuarua).

Tino rangatiratanga is a Māori language term that translates literally to 'highest chieftainship' or 'unqualified chieftainship', but is also translated as "self-determination", "sovereignty" and "absolute sovereignty". [1] [2] The very translation of tino rangatiratanga is important to New Zealand politics, as it is used in the Māori version of the Treaty of Waitangi to express "full exclusive and undisturbed possession" over Māori-owned lands and property, but different translations have drastically different implications for the relationship between the 1840 signatories: the British Crown and the Māori chiefs ( rangatira ). [lower-alpha 1]


It has become one of the most contentious phrases in retrospective analyses of the treaty amid debate surrounding the obligations that were agreed to by each signatory. [4] [5] The phrase features in current historical and political discourse on race relations in New Zealand and is widely used by Māori advocacy groups.

A tino rangatiratanga flag was designed in 1989 and has become accepted as a national flag for Māori groups across New Zealand. [6]

Origins and etymology

The Declaration of Independence of the United Tribes of New Zealand, made to the British Resident in New Zealand on 28 October 1835. The phrase tino rangatiratanga can be seen in the first line of section one. He Wakaputanga (Whakaputanga) o te Rangatiratanga o Nu Tireni - The Declaration of Independence of the United Tribes of New Zealand pg1.jpg
The Declaration of Independence of the United Tribes of New Zealand, made to the British Resident in New Zealand on 28 October 1835. The phrase tino rangatiratanga can be seen in the first line of section one.

A rangatira is a chief, the nominalising suffix -tanga makes the word an abstract noun referring to the quality or attributes of chieftainship. The word is also translated as 'chiefly autonomy', or 'kingdom', referencing the 'chiefly authority' and domain of the chief. [7]

Tino is used as an intensifier, indicating that something is true, genuine or unrivalled. [8] The addition in this context means the phrase can be translated as 'highest chieftainship'. [9] :314

The intention of the phrase was to "emphasize to a chief the Queen's intention to give the complete control according to their customs". [9] :319 One English translation is 'absolute sovereignty', although many also refer to it as self-determination, [10] autonomy, [11] or Māori independence.

Treaty of Waitangi

The emphasis on tino rangatiratanga draws from an inconsistency arising between Article 1 and Article 2 of the Treaty of Waitangi:

Based on the Māori text alone, in Article 1, the signatories appear to be granting kawanatanga, and in Article 2, the signatories are promised that their tino rangatiratanga ('absolutely sovereignty' or 'highest chieftainship') would remain undisturbed. The apparent inconsistency led to much debate as to whether the Māori signatories intended to cede their sovereignty to the British Crown at all: a debate now definitively resolved by the Waitangi Tribunal ruling that sovereignty was not and could not be ceded. [12]

Text of the Treaty

The original Māori text of article two with a literal translation by Professor I. H. Kawharu, as published in the Report of the Royal Commission on Social Policy in 1988 (bold added): [13]


Tino Rangatiratanga flag Tino Rangatiratanga Maori sovereignty movement flag.svg
Tino Rangatiratanga flag

The Tino Rangatiratanga flag is often referred to as the Māori flag [14] and can be used to represent all Māori.[ citation needed ] Hiraina Marsden, Jan Smith and Linda Munn designed the flag in 1989. [15] It uses black, white, and red as national colours of New Zealand. The design of the flag references the Māori creation story of Rangi and Papa, suggesting the sky, the earth, and the physical realm of light and being, which was created when they were separated. [16]

See also


  1. Not all tribes were signatories to the treaty, and for these tribes tino rangatiratanga may not be as important a goal as independence. [3]

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  16. "New Zealand – Maori Flags". Crwflags.com. Retrieved 11 August 2015.