Let us give thanks: acknowledging our blessings on this Waitangi Day

Beyond the headlines of John Key dodging Waitangi and his Ministers doing the same, beyond the drama and oratory at Te Tii Marae, beyond the colourful flags of protests arriving at the flagpole, beyond the Treaty House and Waitangi grounds, there is considered and wise progress being made that you won’t read about this Waitangi Day.

Waitangi Day is our day to thank each other.

The Waitangi Tribunal and the Office of Treaty Settlements are bodies that we give little thought to in our day to day lives, and that our government grants minimal budget each year. Yet they are achieving incredible things. For example, at the last calculation, the Office of Treaty Settlements had:

  • six iwi groups negotiating an Agreement in Principle;
  • 15 iwi groups with Agreements in Principle negotiating a Deed of Settlement;
  • four iwi groups ratifying their Deeds of Settlement;
  • 10 iwi groups awaiting legislation to finalise the Deeds of Settlement;
  • settled with 55 iwi groups.

Are the settlements entirely adequate and just? Not by my reckoning. Is everyone in those iwi groups happy with the process and outcome? Not if my iwi is anything to go by. Is this a world leading, careful and wise process that has meant there has been no armed conflict in Aotearoa New Zealand since the close of the New Zealand Wars, despite the injustice and hurt of our history? Absolutely. The men and women involved with the Crown and with iwi have negotiated an enduring, peaceful society on the ashes of 40 years of civil war and the burden of a century of oppression of Māori; and most New Zealanders would have no idea.

People in our country look to the horrific acts of war and violence in many countries in Africa, in South America, in South East Asia, in Melanesia and in Polynesia and shake their heads regretfully, without ever understanding that Aotearoa New Zealand bears the same scars of colonisation and imperialism. We’ve dealt with it differently.

People in our country fail to see that central to our peace here is the grace and compassion that Māori have shown Pākehā, the genuine desire for an enduring relationship and the willingness to put our hurts behind us.

Waitangi Day is our day to thank each other.

Beyond the Crown and Māori relationship, organisations and communities in this country are asking what biculturalism can mean for them and how they can have real, honest relationships with their iwi and hapū. Most of these groups embraced such workshops in the nineties, which focused on having the right strategic statements, the right Treaty statements, the right policies and processes. In all good intent, they wrote all of that up and put it on the bookshelf. So now these same organisations and communities have recognised that the change they imagined never happened, and are asking: what next? There has to be more to the Treaty relationship than this?

So they are reaching out to marae and to rūnanga. They are having faltering, annoying and silly conversations with Māori in their area to try and understand. They are making awful embarrassing mistakes. Yet they persist because they genuinely want to respond to the injustices of the past.

I’m working with the Salvation Army and their Māori Ministry work, and in the past was involved with Urban Vision, a new monastic order of the Anglican Church; in both, Pākehā trying to understand, who are willing to risk a bit of their power and control, and who imagine that it could be better than this. This desire is driven by a lot of younger people who want to see their organisations and communities lead a just, inclusive future with Māori as the honoured and acknowledged tuakana (elder sibling).

Waitangi Day is our day to thank each other.

Here at home, our tamariki have now returned to kura and kōhanga reo. Despite the highs and lows of the movements, they remain world leading examples of indigenous education and language revitalization. My tamariki will be home from kura soon, and they will be chatting away in Māori (and a bit of English), they will have spent the day surrounded by cousins and learnt in an environment in which the processes and priorities of their iwi were paramount. All of this is possible because our kuia and koroua fought the Crown for resource and recognition.

All of this is also possible because the Crown then provided the resource and recognition and enshrined these pedagogies in legislation. It’s not enough funding and we’ve encountered public servants who seem to have no clue about why this education matters, but we have buildings, teachers, resources, a curriculum and an assessment system that our tamariki can succeed in.

Waitangi Day is our day to thank each other.

So tomorrow on Waitangi Day, I will put down my pen, often so filled with rage and a vision for a better future, and I will look at what Māori and Pākehā have already achieved since 1975. And I will say here and now, it is good. Thank you. Let’s keep going and learn to trust that each of us means the other well.

2 thoughts on “Let us give thanks: acknowledging our blessings on this Waitangi Day

  1. thank you for reminding me how far we have moved forward in our relationships with Pakeha. admittedly I find it very disappointing when dealing with older Pakeha who continue to rubbish Maori and their history. who believe that Maori are better off because the ‘great white man’ landed here. you continue to put things into perspective for me. nga Mihi

    1. Kia ora Ripeka, you’re welcome. I find it very easy to feel down about the state of race relations in Aotearoa. A bit of context helps me gain some perspective.

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