Ruth Ross : New Zealand scholar/Treaty scholar : a thesis presented in partial fulfillment of the requirement for the degree of Master of Arts in History at Massey University

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Massey University
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In 1972 Ruth Ross presented an analysis of the Treaty of Waitangi that was to underpin interpretations of the Treaty for the next thirty years. Its purpose was threefold: to untangle the various instructions and translations that contributed to the drafting of the Treaty in 1840; to determine the intentions and understandings of the Treaty partners, Maori and Pakeha; to historicise the signing of the Treaty, thus returning an element of objectivity and distance to an event whose symbolism, she believed, had come to outstrip both scholarly understanding and documentary evidence. From 'Pakeha self-righteousness' to 'Maori disillusionment', she concluded, the Treaty of Waitangi had come to say 'whatever we want it to say'. The impact of her paper was considerable. It was first presented as a seminar, then published in an expanded form as 'Te Tiriti o Waitangi: Texts and Translations' in the New Zealand Journal of History.2 2 Ruth Ross, 'The Treaty of Waitangi: Texts and Translations', NZJH, 6:2, October 1972, p. 129-154. Its fine-grained analysis won the respect of the scholarly community and has gone on to inform a number of influential works, including those of Ranginui Walker and Claudia Orange. After more than thirty years in the Treaty debate it is still regarded as the 'most penetrating critique in recent times of the events surrounding the drafting and signing of the Treaty'.3 Ranginui Walker, Ka Whawhai Tonu Matou, Struggle Without End, 2nd Edition, Auckland: Penguin Books, p. 90. The article also captured attention at the broader social level. At a time when, willingly or otherwise, an understanding of the Treaty of Waitangi was becoming increasingly requisite, Ross challenged New Zealanders' view of their past. With its provocative wording, her outspoken conclusion became a catchphrase in the argument over the role of the Treaty in New Zealand.
Ruth Ross, Women historians, New Zealand, Treaty of Waitangi (1840)