New Zealand today is a multiethnic society, as exemplified by Auckland, which is the largest Polynesian city in the world. The original people, the Maori, began settling the land in the early ninth century and now constitute about 12% of the population. They had come to the North Island from other Pacific islands, the last wave from Tahiti in about 1350, in a fleet of large canoes. The Maori spread out along the coast and the rivers on both of the main islands. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, despite fierce opposition from the Maori, British missionaries and whalers established settlements and trading posts in New Zealand, chiefly in the north of the North Island. Systematic immigration, mainly from Great Britain, began in 1839. By the terms of the Treaty of Waitangi, signed in 1840 by a British representative and 50 Maori chieftains, Great Britain formally proclaimed sovereignty over the islands and agreed to respect the land ownership rights of the Maori, who placed themselves under the protection of the British government.