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Te Whare Rūnanga poutokomanawa, Waitangi.
Te Whare Rūnanga poutokomanawa, Waitangi.

ĀteaFebruary 6, 2019

Te Tiriti voices: Māori and Pākehā on what the Treaty means to them

Te Whare Rūnanga poutokomanawa, Waitangi.
Te Whare Rūnanga poutokomanawa, Waitangi.

Hinerangi Rhind-Wiri, Haylee Koroi and Lizzie Strickett spoke to friends and whānau about what a living Treaty of Waitangi partnership looks like.

Some would have us believe that Te Tiriti o Waitangi is of the past. We wanted to share the voices of those trying to live by Te Tiriti today who suggest otherwise. We interviewed a range of people living in New Zealand about their commitment to Te Tiriti in their homes and places of work. By doing this, we hope to provoke fresh ideas about our relationship with Aotearoa and with one another.


Let us begin this way. Imagine you are a manuhiri (visitor) awaiting permission to enter the marae. The karanga, a call which invokes ancestor to meet ancestor, indicates a time to move forward. You might be approached with wariness, do you bring war or peace? You are ushered into the meeting house where whaikōrero take place to establish the reason for your arrival. We press noses to share the breath of life and after your first meal, we hand you a tea towel so you can help with the washing up.

What happens when we use extend the example of this story to Te Tiriti as a living document?

As a Pākehā woman, Lilian Hanly says that in order to honour Te Tiriti she must acknowledge her relationship to this land; she is a descendent of manuhiri. Inherent in this relationship is knowing that while Aotearoa is her home, it is not her land.

For Jason Boberg it starts with the recognition that tino rangatiratanga was never ceded by hapū. “I know I am living in a society founded on stolen lands and the oppression of Māori. I think that can be a really bitter pill for a lot of Pākehā to swallow.”

Equally, for Lilian, it is about understanding the consequences that occurred as a result of dishonouring Te Tiriti, by one of the two signatories. It is about engaging in the history of Aotearoa and understanding the historical and ongoing trauma and violence Māori experience because of colonisation. It is about understanding the Crown’s illegitimate assertions of sovereignty over Māori and New Zealand and “to acknowledge the privilege which I have inherited from a process of colonisation that purposely places Pākehā in positions of power, a process that continues today.

“In understanding and acknowledging colonial violence, one can begin to truly commit to doing the mahi and undoing the pain and historical trauma that exists.”

We spoke to our interviewees at length about structural racism and privilege. One of the themes that emerged was the lack of visibility these issues have when people do not interrogate the power imbalances at play in their lives. Kara Shanahan told us: “As Pākehā, the key to honouring Te Tiriti in my own life is about being self-reflective, humble and open to learning.”

Carina Mearers describes her role as a researcher: “I ask myself, who is around the table deciding on this [research] question, and who is not? Who will benefit from this research?” This raises the point as to who is holding the pen, and who has the power of writing the story.

As a creative director, Jason knows that his role typically implies power over stories. “One of the ways I can uphold Te Tiriti in my work is to acknowledge that not all stories are mine to tell. In addition, I try not to perpetuate colonial narratives in our work.”

For Janine Paynter it also means being reflective of internal assumptions she held about Māori. “I was clutching power because if Māori had power [I believed] they would treat me as badly as they have been treated, so I went through a process of mentally breaking down and destroying this fear.”

Tangata whenua

Many of our interviewees shared feelings of discomfort upon understanding the outcomes of colonial violence and its downstream effects today. For Māori, it can look like unravelling the pain and trauma associated with the lives lost in the battlefield of colonial warfare. It is about understanding how one is not only displaced in one’s own lands, but often disconnected from their identity as Māori.

The role of hapū, according to Hana Maihi (Ngāti Whatua, Tainui) is to re-remember our rights to tino rangatiratanga and to pursue them through the reactivation of ‘tīpuna memory’. Specifically, through speaking te reo Māori, engaging in tīpuna practices like mahi raranga, and māra kai (traditional gardening practises) and to practice values of manaakitanga, whanaungatanga which rangatiratanga exemplifies.

As Chloe Manga (Te Rarawa, Ngāti Kahu) explains, it is about reconnecting with who we are on our own terms. Being Māori “should not be dependent on what the coloniser thinks of us.” Hana says that whānau and hapū need time to heal, away from the continued stressors of colonisation, without which tino rangatiratanga cannot be realised.”

Returning to rangatiratanga

Hapū had pre-existing rights before the arrival of European visitors in New Zealand. Māori rights existed for over a thousand years prior to Te Tiriti and He Whakaputanga. More specifically terms such as ‘rangatiratanga’, ‘mana i te whenua’ and ‘tino rangatiratanga’ were used across these two documents to outline the continued mana of hapū upon their own whenua. Stephani, of Niuean descent, explains that rights were affirmed through the concept of tāngata whenua [or motu nei in Niuean], used throughout the Pacific to distinguish who held ultimate mana over the land. “We see your rights to the lands through whakapapa, through your ancestral connection to this whenua. This is where your whenua (placenta) is buried.”

Imagining a future of Te Tiriti

Hapū must be free to live out the lives that not only Te Tiriti o Waitangi reinforced, but their birthright as tāngata whenua, has promised them. A life in which they have ultimate authority over their resources, their knowledge systems and their lives.

Jason states that a future encompassing the true essence of Te Tiriti “would look like Pākehā owning the full reality of the historical and present injustices that cause Māori to be oppressed and disadvantaged across all areas. In owning that, we are actively doing the mahi of decolonisation. I think I can’t really say what that looks like because it’s not actually up to me. What is up to me is to actively support and play my part in that process… Even if the end goal doesn’t look like something that benefits me, or people that look like me, because ultimately I think it would look like justice. When we have justice, everyone benefits.”

Returning to the notion of your duties at the marae, doing the dishes isn’t a job that anyone wants to do but there are two things you can be certain of, after all the formalities of the pōwhiri; it is at the sink where you truly meet a person, and when we do the dishes together, we get through them a lot faster.

Keep going!