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The whakapapa of the United Tribes flag

The following is some of the whakapapa behind the various flags that are known commonly as the flags of the United Tribes - here is the history:

United Tribes' flag: original flag (1st of 4)

This is a sketch of the original design chosen by a gathering of Māori chiefs at Waitangi on 20 March 1834 to be New Zealand's flag. It was actually one used by the Church Missionary Society, but it is known as the United Tribes' flag after this group of chiefs. The flag contained a red St George's cross on a white background, with a smaller St George's cross bordered with black on a blue background in the upper quarter. A white eight-pointed star was located in each quarter of the smaller cross. Slightly different versions of this flag were subsequently (and mistakenly) used, but this is the original United Tribes' flag. It was replaced as New Zealand's flag by the Union Jack when the Treaty of Waitangi was signed in 1840.

United Tribes' flag: Edward Markham sketch (2nd of 4)

In 1834 Englishman Edward Markham travelled throughout the Hokianga district and the Bay of Islands. Probably based on records kept at the time of his journey, Markham wrote up his experiences in a manuscript he called 'New Zealand or recollections of it' around 1836 or 1837. It was published in 1963. The manuscript contains a painting of the United Tribes' flag. Markham doesn't seem to have been present when the flag was chosen, and presumably saw it flying some time later. He didn't always get his facts right, and his flag is not precise in detail, in part because the painting is a watercolour. In the manuscript Markham wrongly described the flag as 'The Jack blue with a white cross and a white star in each corner in a St George Enseign' (Edward Markham, New Zealand or recollections of it. Wellington: Government Printer, 1963, p. 73). In the painting the smaller cross in the upper quarter is white (the original was red) and does not have a border. The stars are impressionistic in style and lack clear points.

United Tribes' flag: James Laurenson collection (3rd of 4)

This copy of the United Tribes' flag was made from a plate in a book of flags published in 1845 and held by the British Admiralty library in London. This version has a white rather than black border around the smaller St George's cross, but the stars are eight-pointed, as on the original flag.

United Tribes' flag: New Zealand Company version (4th of 4)

The New Zealand Company raised this version of the United Tribes' flag at Petone on 30 September 1839. The flag was made out of wool and linen, on the ship Tory during the voyage to New Zealand from England. It was probably based on an incomplete description of the original United Tribes' flag, which had been published in the New South Wales Gazette in 1835. The stars are six-pointed, rather than eight-pointed as in the original, and the smaller St George's cross does not have a border. The flag is now housed at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.

After the Treaty of Waitangi was signed on 6 February 1840 the Union Jack became New Zealand's recognised flag, but the New Zealand Company continued to fly the United Tribes' flag. Governor William Hobson described this as high treason, and sent an armed party to lower the United Tribes' flag and hoist the Union Jack in June 1840.


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