Happy Waitangi Day to all the New Zealanders out there! May you bask in the glorious sunshine, knowing that we live in a South Pacific paradise.
I refuse to get caught-up with all the misunderstandings and ill-feeling that is usually associated with Waitangi Day. Since I was young it almost felt expected for people to bicker about the relevance of this national day. ‘Cringe’ is often the word that springs to mind.
Growing up I used to feel confused by the Treaty, particularly as it represented the partnership between Māori and Pakeha. What does that mean for a New Zealand-born Samoan-Chinese person? I now feel comfortable in understanding that the relationship is not so restrictive or exclusive. The relationship is between Māori and non-Māori, all of whom exist on this multi-cultural nation. This was clearly articulated to me at a hui (gathering/event) last year and it really made sense to me.
I really wish that New Zealand history was made compulsory at high school. Whilst you learn small parts about this in Social Studies, I gained comprehensive understanding of the Treaty and other significant parts of New Zealand’s history when I undertook the subject in years 12 and 13 (forms 6 and 7). Note: History is purely an ‘optional’ subject from year 10 (form 4) upwards.
As a teenager, it is easy to dismiss such subjects as boring or irrelevant, heck, didn’t that all happen a long long time ago? But learning about the Treaty was eye-opening and really gave me an objective and informed account of this significant event. I wonder how people would respond if they were fully informed on this too.
My sense is that the level of discomfort around talking about the issues of colonisation, race and indigenous rights, make this a very awkward and taboo topic for New Zealanders to discuss. When we suppress these issues, they can fester and grow ragged around the edges. Get comfortable with the talk people, as the younger generations deserve to be treated with honesty and integrity.
I am proud to live in a nation where our indigenous peoples have strong values and principles at their core. Māori are inextricably linked to the land, much to the delight of New Zealand’s clean green image. At sporting events, we champion the haka with pride and sing the National Anthem in Māori and English. When we travel overseas, we proudly wear our pounamu and share the myths and legends pertaining to Maui.
To me this is beyond tokenism. This is a part of being a New Zealander. A Kiwi (yes, another word derived by Māori).
I feel that New Zealanders have a natural defensive response to thinking about how they contribute to a flourishing Treaty relationship. But if we keep it simple to the core, than it’s all about showing respect. It’s as simple as that.
At work I love how my colleagues greet and use Māori words in conversation. Quite often I will use these words too and it’s such an easy way for me to show an appreciation for Maori. For example, mahi refers to work, and kai refers to food. I am blessed to work in a highly diverse workplace, so we also sing waiata (songs) in Maori.
Another simple way to express appreciation is to attend events, shows, plays and gigs that feature Maori themes and artists. I am always so intrigued by the rich story-telling involved and it makes me feel even more proud to live in Aotearoa.
What I’ve suggested is not rocket-science, but requires a willingness to change some of our attitudes. If we refuse to acknowledge, or minimise the contributions of Māori, then we are not showing respect to the Treaty, or to our fellow New Zealanders. We are better than this.
He taonga rongonui te aroha ki te tangata
Goodwill towards others is a precious treasure