Between 1848 and 1863, the Crown purchased more than 8 million hectares of land from Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu, the largest iwi (tribe) of Te Waipounamu (New Zealand’s South Island). In return, Ngāi Tahu understood that the Crown would set aside large reserves, protect food-gathering areas and establish schools and hospitals in Māori communities.
Throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Ngāi Tahu leaders voiced their grievances about the failure of the Crown to meet its obligations.
Ngāi Tahu and the Crown reached a milestone on 21 November 1997 when they signed the Ngāi Tahu Deed of Settlement at Takahanga Marae in Kaikōura. The settlement addressed historic injustices and the Crown offered a formal apology for breaching the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi.
In 1907, Ngāi Tahu representatives met at Arowhenua in South Canterbury to discuss Te Kerēme, the Ngāi Tahu claim, with the Government. At the time, it was the most representative gathering of South Island Māori ever held. Committees were formed to gather records and raise finances so they could take Te Kerēme to Parliament.
An essential part of Ngāi Tahu cultural life is mahinga kai, the access to traditional food and natural resources as well as the places they are found. Traditional food gathered by Māori includes birds, eels, fish, sea mammals and other kai moana (seafood).