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.