Blog 004! Treaty Talks

A modern view on Maori. By Mana Williams. 10-15 Minutes 

Historically, there has always been an imbalance of power. In cases where the consideration for the individual is considered less important than the concerns of the many. But when you bring it back to its roots what does the Treaty of Waitangi really stand for?

Waitangi day could be remembered as a justification that Maori people, as a collective, were and still are an advanced and intelligent people. Otherwise, what would have been the point in having a Treaty? James Carroll would not have been the First Maori Prime Minister in 1909-1911 and Sir Apirana Ngata would not have been entrusted by Parliament to create a Maori Battalion in WW1 and WW2.

On February 6th, 1840, a collection of different ethnic groups came together in New Zealand to sign an agreement establishing a mutual relationship between Maori, British, French, American and other settlers. A common mistake is that people believe that only the British and Maori came to an agreement when it was actually a collective between many different walks of life. This entailed that British, French, and American settlers would be able to segregate land masses within New Zealand, owned by Maori chiefs. By gaining their signatures, lands would be purchasable from their respective Iwi land owners. More importantly, a friendship could be reached between the many different walks of life.

Like many social developments around the globe, many indigenous tribal colonizations possessed a lust for progression. Maori people felt that they had reached a climax with the other participating nations before signing the Waitangi Treaty, but not all of the Chiefs agreed with the declaration. Similar to a few different cultures, a few significant leaders believed that they could progress their tribe by participating in the treaty signing.

Hone Heke as an example, was a Maori chief of the Ngapuhi iwi who was a cunning leader and a skilled warrior and tactician. Some of his best-known works were the cutting of the British Flag Staff four times in the first Capital of New Zealand, Russell. A real nuisance, but equally a respected individual who was a great ambassador for Maori people. Out of the belief of progression and the advancement of his people, Hone Heke was the first Maori Chief to sign the Treaty of Waitangi. From his influence over other Maori Chiefs, Heke inspired the thought of other Maori Leaders to follow suit.

Although without the skill and advanced education surrounding Treaty wording, the authors of the agreement intentionally used vague terms and elongated translations to create loopholes within the Treaty so that they could later manipulate land claims and effectively control the majority stake of land in New Zealand.

This natural lean towards self-empowerment leads me to my next train of thought. What struck me this afternoon when looking out of the window on my break at work was actually the significant shift in power that has occurred over time in New Zealand history, particularly in the last four decades where we have seen the restoration of Maori equality within our communities.

However, you can be sure that when a Kaumatua, an elder person of the people, condemns the stately affairs of their own Marae. You can guarantee that there is dysfunction within the iwi. In recent years it has been customary for the Prime Minister of New Zealand to participate in Waitangi Day festivities at Titi marae. However, in the weeks leading up to this year’s Waitangi Day, a total media blackout was enforced by the Iwi of Titi Marae, Ngapuhi. This order was disputed by members of Parliament, such as Winston Peters who condemned the act as, “an abomination,” as well as Labour Party Leader Andrew Little stating that, “I won’t be, in the future, participating in the shutting down of the ability for New Zealanders to participate in this Waitangi Celebration.” Although Little’s claims are politically motivated in the wake of the resignation of Former Prime Minister John Key and the upcoming elections. It is still significant that Labour Party Leader Andrew Little includes All New Zealanders as a collective, because what it does do is it balances the proclamation of the original Treaty. When we look at the Treaty today, it is sad that we say that it is a day for Maori people to celebrate when in reality, French Governors were present on the 6th of February 1840.

When we stand back from politics we begin to respect that the need of a nation to satisfy their quarrels is understandable. But as with power and people of influence, it is more significant to consider the voices of the individual.

4 thoughts on “Blog 004! Treaty Talks

  1. Kia ora,
    Some interesting whakaaro you propose. For a person whose whanau is from Waitangi yet hasn’t attended a Feb 6 event at Te Tii Marae or the Treaty grounds for many years my observations of what happens there is tinged with growing skepticism.

    That’s mainly due to the media coverage. I’m conscious of the fact much of Te Ao Maori is evolving it’s understanding and application of Te Tiriti in everyday life. Media still struggle with that; I feel that’s partly due to their need to look for drama; after all, political pageantry plays a huge role.

    Unfortunately the forces shaping those desires are out of the hands of the tangata whenua, Ngati Rahiri. But in much the same way Tainui have to carry the pressures and obligations of the Kingitanga, so too do Ngati Rahiri carry the nationalistic pressures and obligations of Te Tiriti being signed on our whenua. Those pressures range from Crown paternalism (very prevalent during the Holyoake / Muldoon era); expressions of anger from Maori manuhiri (the mud thrown at Brash in 2004, the Harawira / Gardiner whawhai on the maraeatea in 1995 etc). Somehow, the tangata whenua are expected to simply absorb it, say nothing and prepare for the next Feb 6, e ake nei…

    It never works like that on a marae though.

    In my view, these themes reveal something more about the Treaty in modern life. The way it’s portrayed has a lot of New Zealanders deeply cynical about it; they hold Maori responsible for the cynicism.

    But the reality is the Crown and Maori are responsible for upholding the Treaty Articles. History shows it’s the Crown that even today, repeatedly breach the Articles. They do it because Te Tiriti’s authority is drawn from Parliament. Parliament’s authority is drawn from our democracy. Our political leaders are comfortable with pushing the envelope on upholding Treaty obligations if they feel they have the political support to do so.

    That’s where the real cynicism lies, in my opinion. For some reason, a significant number of people in NZ feel it’s okay to push back on the Treaty articles; which at their heart, are all about co-existence. A conclusion that can be drawn from that is some folks don’t want to co-exist. Or at least, not on Treaty terms.

    1. Really compelling points.

      When the buck is pushed towards a democratic process it is true that the Crown and indeed even the media and our ministers will breach or at least in some cases twist and explore ways in which they are able to find drama. This is effect does indeed draw a skepticism or narcissism when it comes to Treaty talks. It is equally important to recognise that most people are naturally aware that our media and politicians twist things, but we forget sometimes that these spin doctors and corporate philanthropics are actually hired to spin things in order to get a story that a majority New Zealand will be able to reconcile.

      My growing concern is that although there is this passion to co-exist, more and more people are looking to find reasons not to. That is with the nature of a typical kiwi who wouldn’t shy away from ministers or the media, take for example the throwing of a dildo into Steven Joyce’s face, New Zealanders make it very clear that we are aware that we won’t be able to move forward together whilst the media and indeed the crown are passing policies and making up stories about matters which do not have Maori interests at heart This coexistence cannot occur while Maori are left out of the loop, the reason why this is has been the same since the treaty was signed, people are indifferent when it comes to trust and renouncing their defence mechanisms.

      Again thank you for your response. No doubt this is a matter so big I am sure it will be topic of conversation this time next year again. It will be interesting to see how Titi Marae develops over these next few years.

      Nga mihi,

      1. Ideally it would be great if Treaty discourse was removed from the political process. Or at least not led by the process. In that forum it is too tempting for politicians to use the Treaty as a football – and by extension, Maori – to kick around. I have always found it somewhat surreal that despite its relatively legal vulnerability, the Treaty’s moral authority scares the bejesus out of a lot of Pakeha people (perhaps some Maori too). Some political leaders and media do a great job playing to that fear.

        You allude to it very well when raising the point about PR / Spinmeisters leading the charge on behalf of those with their various agendas. We’ve seen it in full-on mode since Bill English announced he wouldn’t attend Waitangi; Ratana; Bob Jones etc. It’s a commercially frenzied approach designed to raise collective social anxiety; perhaps a sign of things to come when the formal election campaign kicks in later this year.

        Useful to remember much of this activity is occurring primarily within Pakeha communities. It’s their beef they have with the Treaty and Crown policy. Maori have as many diverse views of the Treaty too but are coming from an entirely different mindset. The challenge might be how to reconcile all that on behalf of co-existence, not to spite it.
        Have a great day. Nga mihi, Noah.

    2. Not only is Mana from Waitangi his bloodline is also in Kaikohe Tautoro, Rahiri and many other places which are the Tau whanau, which is my family, Mana’s tupuna you probably know them are Patuone Tamatiwakanene and Hone Heke by blood are very strong headed so this blog is very interesting to know how he feel’s.

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