Aotearoa New Zealand’s founding document, Te Tiriti o Waitangi, (also referred to as the Treaty of Waitangi), is a hot topic currently. Te Tiriti is very important to me as a Pākehā New Zealander, and here, in seven sentences, is why.
- Te Tiriti is the agreement signed in 1840 which sets out a peaceful relationship of mutual benefit, and which allows non-Māori to settle here in Aotearoa under the governorship of the Crown – see the Preamble and the First Article of Te Tiriti.
- Te Tiriti is a generous agreement, which, alongside giving permission to settle in a land which did not belong to us and then to govern ourselves, affirmed tino rangatiratanga (self-determination, including continued Māori control of lands and other things of importance to Māori – Article 2) and offered Māori the same rights and duties of citizenship as the people of England – i.e. equity (Article 3).
- For clarity, Te Tiriti affirmed Māori sovereignty – as evidenced by i) international doctrines of contractual interpretation where the Te Reo version of Te Tiriti takes precedence, ii) through the 2014 Wai 1040 findings of the Waitangi tribunal, and iii) by the logical absurdity of sovereignty being ceded by a Māori population of approximately 80,000 to a non-Māori population of approximately 2,000.
- But – we non-Māori have not abided by our side of the deal – 95% of Māori land is now in non-Māori ownership, a Western system of government has been imposed on Māori (despite Te Tiriti’s reaffirmation of tino rangatiratanga), language and spiritual practices have been suppressed – and – well this sentence could continue for a very long time but let’s stop it here.
- Therefore, we non-Māori should put this right, so that we can live in Aotearoa authentically and honourably, and so we can realise the promise of peaceful and mutually beneficial relationships, according to what was agreed.
- Some ways in which we contribute include learning our history, attending a workshop on Te Tiriti, building our understanding of the Māori world, addressing racism and inequity, supporting tino rangatiratanga (so Māori can restore culture and language and implement Māori solutions to Māori opportunities and challenges), supporting equitable funding and resourcing to Māori, and ensuring that we non-Māori can work well and equitably with Māori on opportunities and challenges that affect us all.
- This work then enables us to build together an Aotearoa where everyone truly belongs, and where, in the words of Dame Whina Cooper “…all our people can live together in harmony… and share the wisdom from each culture”.