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Changing the hearts and minds of the people: Te Tiriti o Waitangi

“Fundamental to understanding is to know that Maori culture is a culture of relationships … with everything and everyone in Te Ao Marama”

(Pereme Porter, 2010, Para 2)

If you want change you need to become involved. According to Ingrid Huygens the only way to support justice for Māori in the 1970s was to join the clubs. By 2010 other avenues opened up, such as the Independent Observers Panel (2010-11), which witnessed and reported on the constitutional hearing of what the ancestors had meant through the Treaty and the Declaration. Ngāpuhi and many other iwi spoke.

There has been a shift from “The Treaty is a Fraud” to “Honour the Treaty”. When working with students and you are looking for alternative resources, you can look to social movements as these are places where new constructions of society are being forged and analysed, often resulting in new conceptual resources. The conversations can help to build the new relationships and the decolonisation of Pākehā (white immigrants to Aotearoa New Zealand).

Colonialism is an impersonal system receiving psychological legitimation from the colonists (Mmmi, 1959), so “For the honour of Pākehā to be regained, the mana of Māori must be restored,” (Paul Temm, 1989).  Authority in the Māori world comes from the land and the local community. Rangatira have face-to-face accountability to the communities that serve Hapū directly (whenua => people = up). In contrast is the monarchical = down, where the authority comes from the monarch. The Rangatira (working within tikanga / law) play a fundamental role in the decision making and negotiations between iwi, and work together to apply tikanga to emerging circumstances. “Te Wakaminenga was required to … apply this existing system of lawmaking to the modern situation” (Nick Aldridge). The colonial mindset did not see these kōrero (discussions) and the application of their decisions, and saw only ‘fighting’.  

The Declaration of Independence (28th October 1985) highlighted the fact that Aotearoa was already a safe and prosperous land. “If you look back at that time - prior to Te Tiriti - were were thriving”. Te Tiriti o Waitangi follows He Wakaputanga and is an extension of it. The hapu and the Queen’s people were confirming a relationship of mutuality, that will bring trade and other benefits to both parties. The governor was given permission to govern Pākehā in the areas allocated for the Queen (ie they were given self-governance rather than governance over all the Māori lands - there was absolutely no intention to cede sovereignty). The governor was to sit as one with the rangatira as a member of the council, and this may well have extended to other ethnic groups.

We can therefore articulate Māori agency and authority in their relationship with the newcomers, and that the hapu were prosperous, literate and forward looking. Māori had been building a relationship with the British monarchy through four generations. Te tiriti was made to welcome Pākehā in.


How can this be used to help build awareness? Part is a process of collective theorising, which can help with understanding relevance and how it integrates with everyone’s experience. The group process, where people come to something and get inspired, and then go back to their organisation and ‘stall’ is only minimally effective. “The ‘Treaty gap’ is not between Māori and Pākehā, but between those who know and support the Treaty and those who don’t” (Cosedine, Waitangi Associates, Huygens, 2004). In conversations we can revisit history, respond emotionally, build collective responses, and strive towards a ‘right relationship’.

Attribution: This post was based on a presentation given by Ingrid Huygens, Te Tipuranga – Growing Capability National Tertiary Learning and Teaching Conference 2015.

Image: Morning in the bay. CC ( BY NC ND ) licensed Flickr image by Hazelowendmc: https://flic.kr/p/FUp9Vb

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