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Waitangi Day – how will you commemorate?


Ko ngā pae tawhiti whāia kia tata, ko ngā pae tata, whakamaua kia tina.

The potential for tomorrow depends on what we do today. 

The resources on this page encourage you to consider how Waitangi Day can be observed with your students and the wider community, and how you can use the Treaty of Waitangi principle as a foundation of curriculum decision making at your school.

About Waitangi Day 

Te Whare Rūnanga, Waitangi

Every year on 6 February, Aotearoa New Zealand marks the signing of The Treaty of Waitangi in 1840. The day was first officially commemorated in 1934, and it has been a public holiday since 1974. 

Waitangi Day is widely recognised as New Zealand's national day; it is an occasion for reflecting on the Treaty and its place in Aotearoa today.

Curriculum connections 

NZC Curriculum icon.

Waitangi Day provides an opportunity for students to examine the social sciences concepts of cultural identity, place and environment, and continuity and change. It is also a useful context to explore values such as diversity, equity, and respect, and to develop key competencies such as thinking and participating and contributing.

Within Te ao tangata |Social sciences including Aotearoa NZ’s histories, the refreshed NZ Curriculum, the context Te tino rangatiratanga me te kāwanatanga | Sovereignty, organisation, and government (pg14) is a useful place to explore Te Tiriti o Waitangi | The Treaty of Waitangi.

How can you get involved?

Some ideas for classroom programmes or school-wide activities:

Understand history
Watch the TVNZ Programme Waitangi – What Really Happened? or read Te Tiriti o Waitangi with your students to explore the history of Te Tiriti and its significance today. You could take time to discuss the events leading up to the Treaty and identify the key Māori & European figures associated with Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

Study the Treaty
Support your students to examine the three articles of The Treaty of Waitangi. Explore what is written in the English and te reo Māori versions of the Treaty and understand the major differences between the two versions.

Te Tiriti o Waitangi (pg 9) outlines the specific words in the Treaty of Waitangi that have caused contradictions and confusion. 

You might have a kaumatua or reo expert in your community who could talk with your students about the meaning behind some of the Māori concepts used in Te Tiriti. 

Explore values
Help your students to explore different perspectives towards Waitangi Day and The Treaty of Waitangi. You could read this blog where student Grace King reflects on what Waitangi Day means to her. Encourage your students to share their own perspectives on Waitangi Day and Te Tiriti. What do they think about national commemorations? Could we honour this day in other ways? What relevance does The Treaty of Waitangi have to our lives today? What steps can we all take in our school and community to ensure that we give mana to Te Tiriti?  

Waitangi Day commemorations
Watch or read the news to see how Waitangi Day is observed at Waitangi and across the country. You could examine official commemorations over time to see how they have changed. Encourage students to share how they recognise Waitangi Day with their families. What does our national day mean to them? 

Examine the Treaty settlement process
Encourage your students to examine the Treaty settlement process. The Waitangi Tribunal has resource kits that can be used in primary and secondary schools to support students' understandings. The School Journal article Keeping Promises: The Treaty Settlement Process provides an accessible introduction to the Treaty settlement process. Look for Treaty claims in your own area. How do they affect iwi in your community? 

The Treaty of Waitangi principle and your local curriculum
The beginning of the school year is a perfect time for your school to consider how the Treaty of Waitangi principle is currently interpreted and implemented in your local curriculum. Our support package contains resources and inspirational ideas for planning, prioritising, and review. You could use these guiding questions to begin:

  • How is the Treaty of Waitangi principle visible in your school?
  • What opportunities exist for your students and colleagues to learn and use te reo Māori and tikanga Māori throughout the school year? 
  • What opportunities do Māori students, their whānau, and community members have to share their knowledge and experiences within your local curriculum?

Instructional Series 

Another great way to get your students involved in Waitangi Day is to incorporate it into your reading and writing programme. The Instructional Series offers several texts about our national day:

Te Tiriti o Waitangi (graphic novel)
This comic provides a fresh approach to the story of Te Tiriti o Waitangi, New Zealand’s founding document.

Te Tiriti o Waitangi: School Journal Level 3, August 2017
This article explains what the Treaty of Waitangi is, why it was needed, and what it says. Although most students will have heard of the Treaty, this may be the first time they have read about it for themselves.

Keeping Promises: The Treaty Settlement Process: School Journal Level 4, November 2017 
This article provides an accessible introduction to the Treaty settlement process. The content covers events from 1840, when the Treaty of Waitangi was signed, through to the present day. 

Useful resources

Use these links with your students to explore the Treaty of Waitangi; its history, interpretations, principles, and the settlement process.

  • He Tohu – Te Tiriti o Waitangi
    He Tohu is a permanent exhibition of three iconic constitutional documents that shape Aotearoa New Zealand including Te Tiriti o Waitangi. On this website you can discover interesting facts about the Treaty. There is also a social inquiry resource that explores cultural interaction. 
  • Waitangi Day activity book
    This free downloadable activity book from Te Papa is designed to help students understand the significance of Waitangi Day. Learn through maps, flags, word puzzles, drawing, and colouring in. Perfect for primary-aged children.
  • What could I see, hear and feel in your learning community? For schools considering ways to better meet their obligations as Treaty partners, here are some suggestions about where you might start. 

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Looking at the Treaty of Waitangi curriculum principle
In this video, Wharehoka Wano shares his ideas about the importance and meaning of the Treaty of Waitangi curriculum principle. Find simple strategies to get started with this principle and learn what might be seen in classrooms where the Treaty of Waitangi principle is enacted.

social sciences
treaty of Waitangi

Updated on: 02 Feb 2021