The history of New Zealand dates back at least 700 years to when it was discovered and settled by Polynesians, who developed a distinct Māori culture centred on kinship links and land. The first European explorer to sight New Zealand was Dutch navigator Abel Tasman on 13 December 1642. The Dutch were also the first non-natives to explore and chart New Zealand's coastline. Captain James Cook, who reached New Zealand in October 1769 on the first of his three voyages, was the first European explorer to circumnavigate and map New Zealand. From the late 18th century, the country was regularly visited by explorers and other sailors, missionaries, traders and adventurers. In 1840 the Treaty of Waitangi was signed between the British Crown and various Māori chiefs, bringing New Zealand into the British Empire and giving Māori the same rights as British subjects. There was extensive British settlement throughout the rest of the century and into the early part of the next century. War and the imposition of a European economic and legal system led to most of New Zealand's land passing from Māori to Pākehā(European) ownership, and most Māori subsequently became impoverished.
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