Reenactment of the Treaty of Waitangi (1840)

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The forthcoming launch of the Empress Miniatures range of figures for the New Zealand Wars of the 1840s has brought to mind the part I took over 20 years ago in an unforgetable  reenactment event.  

In 1990 I was one of five New Zealand police officers selected to take part in the official reenactment of the Treaty of Waitangi on the 150th sesquicentennial anniversary of its signing.  We represented the five New South Wales Mounted Police troopers who accompanied Captain William Hobson RN from Australia in 1840.  Hobson was the new Governor of New Zealand, and he signed the Treaty on behalf of the Crown with the chiefs of many of the tribes of New Zealand. 

The reenactment  featured well-known actors and descendants of the real-life Treaty signatories.  It was played on the grounds of the Waitangi meeting house in the beautiful Bay of Islands, in front of a large audience, including Queen Elizabeth II. 

The five of us were all police history buffs, so we researched the NSW Mounted Police uniforms of the time,  and had them sewn up for us by a theatrical company.  So overall we were probably relatively realistic – from a distance, anyway.  The same could not be said for the naval officers, whose uniforms were definitely not accurate from any distance.  The Maori chiefs, however, really looked the part.

While the reenactment was mainly about the discussions and debates that went on before and during the actual signing of the Treaty, the highpoint for me was being rowed ashore in a cutter with the official party at the start of the event.  The crew were all in period costume.  On each side we were accompanied by several huge ‘waka’, or Maori canoes.  It was spine tingling listening to the paddlers chanting across the water.   It was one of those moments in reenacting when you feel as though you have really stepped back in time.  The memory will live with me forever.

To see much bigger images of the pictures from the slideshow at the top of the page, click on the thumbnails below. 

16 thoughts on “Reenactment of the Treaty of Waitangi (1840)

  1. Wow, that’d be some re-enactment to have been involved in!

    Mum’s a Waitara girl, so she grew up with a lot of the scenery from the 2nd Maori War all around her, but unfortunately didn’t learn about it that much as a girl. Taranaki is full of battle sites and pas (plural of pa?) and tales of brutal but valiant fighting from the 1860’s, that I only know the bare minimum about. I’ll have to get back there one day and tour the sites.

    Thanks for re-awakening the interest in half my heritage!

  2. Love this. Where did you get the references for the uniform of the the New South Wales Mounted Police (c1840).

  3. Peter, I wish I could remember! I do recall finding a written description in a book somewhere, but blowed if I know now, so long after the event.

  4. No sweat,
    NSW Police turns 150 next year and their is a dearth of information on uniforms.

  5. I’ll keep my eye out then, Peter.

    In the 1989 Auckland police history book ‘Without Fear or Favour’ by Owen J Cherrett, there is a modern painting of a NSW trooper in NZ in 1840. The caption states that it is based on a painting in the State Library of NSW (c1840). In the picture, he is wearing a straw hat, has ornate epaulettes, and does not have the red braiding and white belts from our reconstructed uniforms.

    1. Many thanks. I’ll chase that up. In 1825 the New South Wales Military Mounted Police were formed by Governor Brisbane. ‘The Mounted Police in NSW’ by Cleary indicates that the NSW Mounted Police were formed in 1850 to replace the disbanding Military Mounted Police.

  6. Hey Peter, I am a student film maker and I am looking to make a short film about James Wilson( Bushranger). I was wondering if you could please point me in the right direction at getting 1840s mounted trooper uniforms ( yours were fantastic ).

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