English or Maori?

Contributor: Ryann Maginn. Lesson ID: 12403

Have you ever gotten into a mess because you thought you understood what you were supposed to do but it wasn't what the person meant? Learn about a country that went to war over a misunderstanding!


World, World Cultures

Social Studies
learning style
personality style
Grade Level
Intermediate (3-5)
Lesson Type
Skill Sharpener

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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Can you speak a foreign language? Imagine what situations could arise if you had a bad translator, who made mistakes like telling someone you said, "Your aunt looks like a goat" when you were saying, "I need a pencil."

Before proceeding, take notes as you read.

You will be quizzed on the information later on in this lesson!

In 1840, Britain and 500+ Maori chiefs (Maori are the indigenous people of New Zealand) signed a written agreement called the Treaty of Waitangi. This agreement made the country of New Zealand a colony of Britain, but it also brought much uncertainty for the country.

Not every Maori chief signed the treaty. The ones that were in agreement thought the treaty would limit land sales to Europeans and that there would be an increase in trade within their country. Those opposed felt they would lose their independence by signing such an agreement.

When the treaty was in development, there were two versions. The original version was in English and the other translated into Maori. However, there were slight differences and misunderstandings with the translated copy. Most British believed the treaty gave the monarchy (the king or queen) complete sovereignty, or control, over Maori. However, the Maori translated the treaty to mean Britain simply would have access to their land.

Heke fells the flagstaff at Kororareka

Image by Arthur David McCormick, via Wikimedia Commons, is in public domain.

These disputes eventually turned violent and continued on throughout the nineteenth century as the New Zealand Land Wars. As the twentieth century neared, there continued to be disagreements about the treaty, but not violence. To this day, there are still disagreements over the treaty’s terms.

In 1932, the house and land where the treaty was signed were gifted to the nation. Today, it has become a tourist attraction for visitors to experience what occurred nearly two hundred years ago.

Continue on to the Got It? section, where you will test your knowledge of what you just learned.

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