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Waitangi Day

New Zealand National Day

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The New Zealand Flag

The New Zealand Flag

Courtesy The World Factbook

Waitangi Day is the New Zealand national day celebrated each year on February 6.

Unlike Australia, whose national day marks the settlement at Sydney Cove by Europeans, which is often viewed as "invasion day" by the Aboriginal people, New Zealand’s national day commemorates the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi on February 6, 1840.

Waitangi Day thus marks the coming together in friendship of the Maori people and the white European settlers although it hasn’t been an easy road from there.

New Zealand's nationhood

Under the terms of the Waitangi Treaty, the Maori people agreed to accept British sovereignty. They in turn were granted citizenship and land rights.

The treaty, however, has never been officially ratified by the New Zealand Parliament (although it did pass a Treaty of Waitangi Act in 1975 which sought to honor the terms of the agreement) and has been a source of dissension and discord, particularly in relation to land rights.

But it is an historic document nonetheless in seeking to clarify the rights of the Maori people and the European settlers and it lit the way to New Zealand nationhood, which Waitangi Day celebrates.

Next page: Waitangi: Birthplace of a Nation

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