See Aotearoa’s founding documents at He Tohu

Home to a declaration, a treaty and a petition making a world-first, a visit to He Tohu brings you up close to our nation’s history

He Tohu exterior

Where

Thorndon

Location

National Library of New Zealand
Thorndon

Contact

0800 474 300

Opposite New Zealand Parliament buildings, in the National Library Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa, is an exhibition called He Tohu which is now home to some of New Zealand’s most important documents.  

It’s where you can see the nine pages of the agreement that Aotearoa New Zealand is built on, Te Tiriti o Waitangi - Treaty of Waitangi. Signed in 1840, the Treaty has often been hotly debated, and at times ignored or broken but it remains a source of hope and optimism for Aotearoa’s future.

He Tohu exhibition Treaty of Waitangi Womans suffrage petition declaration kids 3
He Tohu exhibition Treaty of Waitangi Womans suffrage petition declaration kids 1
He Tohu exhibition Treaty of Waitangi Womans suffrage petition declaration kids 2
He Tohu exhibition

He Tohu is also home to the 1893 Women’s Suffrage Petition - Te Petihana Whakamana Pōti Wahine, which led to New Zealand becoming the first country in the world where all women gained the right to vote in general elections.

It’s also where you can view the He Whakaputanga - Declaration of Independence, a hugely important document which was how rangatira (Māori leaders) told the world, back in 1835, that New Zealand was an independent Māori nation.

Under the care of Archives New Zealand, these taonga (treasures) are kept in He whakapapa kōrero: The Document Room, a hand-crafted room designed to protect and enhance the mana of the precious documents it holds.

Inspired by traditional Māori waka huia (treasure box), the exterior is made from native New Zealand rimu wood. Carver Bernard Makoare used traditional techniques of adzing to create the entrance panel to He Tohu and four tokotoko were carved by with advice from renowned Māori artist Dr Cliff Whiting.

The Treaty of Waitangi is faced towards the doors of parliament to constantly challenge its agreement.

Senior Learning Facilitator, Anna Tiaki.

Surrounding the peaceful reflection of He whakapapa kōrero, He Tohu features interactive exhibits which give visitors a chance to learn more about the history surrounding these documents. Search the Treaty of Waitangi for your kahika (ancestor) signature and listen to stories from some of the more than 32,000 women who signed the petition, which represents almost a quarter of all adult women in the country.  

With free entry and free daily tours available (12.30pm to 1pm, Monday to Friday
11am to 11:30am on Saturday), He Tohu is a space that is accessible and welcoming for everyone. Seeing these important documents and the individual signatures and marks made by people now long gone, but who helped shape Aotearoa into the country it is today, is an essential experience for everyone.

He Tohu exhibition Treaty of Waitangi Womans suffrage petition declaration kids 2

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