Housing advocate Jade Kake has been working with her hapū to increase engagement in the ongoing Ngāpuhi settlement and Tūhono process. Dissatisfied with the media’s preoccupation with the rūnanga leadership, she writes here about the real work and healing that has been, and is still to be, done.
Ko Jade Kake tōku ingoa. He uri ahau nō Ngāpuhi. My name is Jade Kake, and the territories of my hapū of Te Parawhau and Ngāti Hau are in and around Whangārei, along the southern boundary of Ngāpuhi.
I’ll be the first to confess that it took me a long time to understand the Treaty of Waitangi settlements process. As a kid I wondered how our whānau had come to lose so much. Why collectively we only had a few scraps of land, and although our grandparents had grown up on the whenua, we couldn’t anymore. Why my mother and her siblings (and in turn myself, my sibling and my cousins) were never granted access to our reo. Why our parents, aunties and uncles were given good Pākehā names, and not the kind that would strengthen their identity and whakapapa, but also make them targets in a new assimilationist world. My understanding was complicated by growing up in the diaspora (in Australia), but still tethered to the whenua, enveloped within my whānau, and proud of an identity intertwined with a mamae I couldn’t quite name.
After I moved home to Aotearoa and started to build a professional career centred on contributing to my whānau and hapū, I began the slow process of learning my history. Every stone I turned, revealed another painful truth lurking beneath it. The personal and political were inseparable. The history of loss and injustice cuts like a knife, but there is also a kind of healing in naming and understanding the hurt. There’s a healing in being able to name our maunga, rohe, pā sites, kāinga, even as others occupy our land, barring us from our own important places and damaging Papatūānuku. There’s a healing in knowing and naming our tūpuna, strengthening and celebrating our whanaungatanga as we continue to exist as uri, as living descendants. There’s a healing in reclaiming our reo, even as I stumble over the words.
For me, the first critical part of the settlement process is naming and quantifying our loss. The healing in relearning our own history, in healing and grieving and learning together. The second part, which has only ever occurred to a partial degree, is the transfer of power, and the return of land and resources. Not just acknowledging the wrong, the hara, but setting it right. Despite what you may have been told, utu is not about revenge, it is not about retaliation. It is about balance. There is a subtle but very important difference between those concepts. The narrative (and legal precedent) to date is that full redress is not possible, and that 1-3% is all we should ever hope for, and that maybe over time, we can buy our land back and heal our people who have been fragmented and badly damaged by colonisation. Yet as we navigate the trauma of our daily lives, the whole process can seem hopelessly abstract.
In my experience, building up a picture of our whānau and hapū loss through the Waitangi Tribunal process is often carried by a small and committed group of claimants with the support of their whānau or hapū. Whānau and hapū trawl their own memories, collective histories, archives, and together with professional historians, analysts, lawyers and technicians, work to document and demonstrate the historic breaches of Te Tiriti o Waitangi after 1840 but before 1992, each claim allotted a WAI number by the Waitangi Tribunal. For the longest time, I wondered how the hearings process was even connected with the establishment and ongoing operation of post-settlement governance entities, those economic powerhouses (in other rohe) that I had heard so much about. The journey towards settlement (a misnomer – can a Treaty ever be settled?) is a long and complex process, one that is often incomprehensible to the average whānau or hapū member.
The Treaty settlement process is kind of like a two-pronged fork – the Waitangi Tribunal hears the claims regarding historic loss, and may also commission new research (funded through the Crown Forestry Rental Trust) and draw on expert witnesses. After the hearings process is concluded, this is written into a comprehensive report, and the Tribunal makes a series of non-binding recommendations to the Crown. As well as the healing that comes with giving voice to the wrongs, the report is used to quantify loss, and forms the basis of negotiations for cultural and commercial redress. The other parallel workstream is the recognition of a mandate, granting a purpose-built entity permission to negotiate redress on behalf of an iwi or a ‘large natural grouping’ of hapū – one which will ultimately build the new entity that will receive and manage the redress. In the post-settlement arena, resources and statutory powers are granted to iwi-level entities (although some seem to be hapū or super-hapū that have contorted and morphed into iwi for the purpose of settlement).
Near the beginning of my own political awakening, I read a lot. I listened. Slowly, I began to piece it together. I decided early on that Treaty settlements were not the space where I would be best placed to contribute. But as our settlement process languished, and I became more and more active within our hapū spaces in Whangārei, I found myself drawn into the fray. Our claimants were tired, and the hits were coming hard and fast.
A quick recap on our settlement journey to date:
28 October 1835 – He Whakaputanga signed by rangatira
6 February 1840 – Te Tiriti o Waitangi signed by rangatira
September 2008 – Deadline to file WAI Claims with Waitangi Tribunal for Te Tiriti breaches pre-1992
May 2010 – Feb 2011 – Te Paparahi o Te Raki Stage One Hearings
December 2014 – March 2015 – Ngāpuhi Mandate Urgent Inquiry Hearings
February 2014 – Crown recognises Tūhoronuku Mandate
December 2015 – Ngāpuhi Mandate Inquiry Waitangi Tribunal Report published
June 2017 – Minister Chris Finlayson withdraws from Ngāpuhi Treaty Negotiations
October 2017 – Stage 2 hearings concluded (report writing ongoing)
December 2017 – Te Rōpū o Tūhono formed of Te Kotahitanga o Ngā Hapū Ngāpuhi co-chairs, the Tūhoronuku chair and deputy chair and Andrew Little
October – December 2018 – Ngāpuhi Evolved Mandate Endorsement Process, individual and hapū votes
Much of the media reporting on Ngāpuhi of late has focussed on the rūnanga leadership issue. The media seems to take a kind of malicious glee in highlighting our dysfunction, trauma and internal divisions which, when consumed in the public arena by a Pākehā-majority, is used by many to confirm their racist and colonial beliefs. This narrative (much like the other dominant media victim-blaming narrative – why can’t Ngāpuhi just get their shit together, aren’t you lot tired of being poor?) is divisive and unhelpful. To focus on the rūnanga leadership is to miss the point: our Rūnanga is not, should not, and cannot be a proxy for Ngāpuhi te iwi. It was established for a specific purpose, to hold and manage the assets received through the fisheries settlement, through an act of Crown legislation. It should not be assumed by default that the Rūnanga will be the entity to take us forward into negotiations over our historic loss, nor to manage any future redress.
A much more interesting and relevant story is the whakatau to remove the Tūhoronuku mandate and return the mana of decision making to the hapū. The decision to grant the mandate to negotiate the historic claims of Ngāpuhi to Tūhoronuku (which has maintained notoriously close ties with the Ngāpuhi Rūnanga), has been contentious since before the Deed of Mandate was signed. This came to a head late last year, when the hapū of Ngāpuhi resoundingly rejected a last ditch attempt to ‘evolve’ the mandate and make it fit for purpose. The Tūhono process was a fraught one, imposing restrictions on our consensus decision-making process as hapū, and forcing us into a Crown-determined process whereby the tyranny of the majority serves only to undermine the traditional social and cultural structures in our hapū. Those disconnected from their ūkaipō or disengaged from their hapū processes tend to be particularly vulnerable to manipulation in service of political agendas.
Throughout the Tūhono process, a small group of us in Whangārei worked tirelessly to run an intensive campaign to ensure our whānau and hapū were informed and engaged throughout the process. I was fortunate to have been a part of this group, analysing the evolved mandate (Tūhono) proposal and mobilising our hapū to engage in these processes and ultimately determine our own destiny. The goal throughout the whole process was to protect our whanaungatanga and develop and maintain shared hapū positions. This was exemplified by our slogan ‘Āe Rānei, Kāhore Rānei?’ (yes or no, you decide). More than 70% of Ngāpuhi hapū rejected the evolved mandate proposal (the outcome – 73 Ngāpuhi hapū said kāhore, 31 hapū said āe. 48% of individuals voted kāhore, 51% voted āe), and therefore the Tūhoronuku mandate.
Hapū rangatiratanga and the retention and protection of our whanaungatanga has remained at our core as we combat Crown attempts to corral us into a single Ngāpuhi ‘full and final settlement’. This would extinguish our claims with regard to our landmark stage one finding – that Ngāpuhi hapū did not cede sovereignty – a finding which the Crown has refused to engage with in any meaningful way. The evolved mandate proposal determined that the issue of sovereignty was a separate matter, and that this could be dealt with after negotiations had commenced. As Ngā Hapū o Whangārei, we decided by consensus that an agreed pathway to addressing the sovereignty issue must be in place before our hapū enter into any negotiations for Te Tiriti o Waitangi redress. We’ve held firm to that position. We are not anti-negotiations, however, we do require a pathway to addressing the matter of constitutional transformation before entering into any negotiations with the Crown.
Over the past year (post the mobilisation of our hapū to engage in the Tūhono process and ultimately reject the evolved mandate proposal), we have not been idle. We have been doing the work to organise, to heal, to listen, to wānanga amongst ourselves, and to strengthen our sovereignty position. Hapū members and dedicated kaimahi within the various parts of Ngāpuhi have worked tirelessly to establish a shared Unity of Purpose. Our Unity of Purpose is the same as it has been since mai rānō, and which our tūpuna asserted with He Whakaputanga in 1835, and was again reaffirmed through our stage one finding. The hapū of Ngāpuhi have never ceded sovereignty to the Crown, and that the hapū of Ngāpuhi will never cede sovereignty.
For those on the frontlines, many of whom have been on this journey for a long time, kia kaha. We’ll continue to mahitahi, to work together, and to protect our whanaungatanga even in the face of divisive action by the Crown. For those who are disconnected but want to contribute, kia māia. The best way to get involved is to return to your ūkaipō, and plug into your whānau and hapū spaces. Take the time to listen, learn, and build relationships. Maranga mai e te iwi e.