We, New Zealanders are not always known to feel comfortable singing our praises. Though there’s one day a year when it’s not just acceptable, we are expected, to do just that.
February 6 this year marks the 179th anniversary of the signing of Te Tiriti o Waitangi (the Treaty of Waitangi).
This “special” day is a public holiday, with most viewing it as just that, a day off work.
With the perfect excuse to indulge in everything, we love most about New Zealand, from our beaches and parks to our arts, culture and delicious variety of food [kai]. All over the country, there are celebrations with the more official one located at the site where it all began.
Then there is the other side of this National Day off – Waitangi Day.
At school, I learned about the basics of both the Maori and Pakeha perspectives on our history.
Most of my growing up years were within the Bay of Plenty. This area, having a substantial Maori population, which in turn meant we had some influence from the local Marae and Maori culture within our schooling system.
The importance of Maori and other cultures has changed dramatically within our schooling system. Thankfully, for the betterment of learning about and acceptance of other cultures. But like with most school systems it is far from perfect.
At the beginning of my schooling years, there seemed a balance between the two histories. During chats with others outside the schooling system is where I started to learn more of the Maori perspective on that same history. There was indeed more significant and profound variations in the interpretations of historical events.
Even significant events, such as Te Kooti’s foray into Poverty Bay and the tragic attack on the community at Matawhero near Gisborne, were seen by the two sides as different as chalk and cheese.
Part of my Whakapapa [family history] originates from the region of Poverty Bay.
I had a Pakeha working class upbringing that mostly allowed me to view, learn and accept (or not) the various viewpoints and to view history accordingly.
For most of my young adult years, I avoided this controversy as most years I was living overseas. Though I found the Treaty of Waitangi to be more about the politicians and activists. For me, it was still a continued source of confusion, contradictory opinions and rhetoric.
Years later while studying to be a teacher in a tertiary institution that leaned heavily towards the Maori interpretation made it any easier for me to come to terms with both the Maori and the Pakeha side of events.
For many, the above document is seen as New Zealand’s founding document.
Does it still have to be a vehicle for more angst in the form of protests, anger as seen in previous years and less so about inclusion or unity?.
One thing is for sure it is more than just a cringe-worthy melee in which the media loves and probably encourages. I think Waitangi Day, or at least the idea of a special commemorative day, should continue. Perhaps not in its current format.
Isn’t it time that we as a country re-think how we celebrate this day at Waitangi?.
Going by last years Waitangi Day and the visit from our current Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern we may have the beginnings of change.
A movement of Aroha [love]?.
The beginning of a special, reflective and non-confrontational event on the Treaty Grounds.
Would we have a day that would be focussed on celebrating of our unity, our minds and souls pointed to the future?
I say make it a day about the people, a stronger focus on the future and still acknowledging our collective views of the past with respect.
He aha te mea Nui o te ao
What is the most important thing in the world?
He Tangata, he Tangata, he Tangata
It is the people; it is the people, it is the people
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