The Treaty and the History belong to us

Priyanca Radhakrishnan – 

Waitangi Day continues to fascinate me today as it did when I first moved to Aotearoa New Zealand and started learning about this nation’s history.

It is an opportunity to reflect and take stock of the Crown’s relationship with Maori and think about where we are headed as a nation.

For me, it is an opportunity to reflect where migrant and ethnic communities fit into the social fabric of our Nation.

In 2016, I had the privilege of joining the Labour Party team at Te Tii Marae for the Political Day that precedes Waitangi Day. It was a special experience.

Waitangi, in the Bay of Islands, is a beautiful place.

Unfortunately, when we were there for the Political Day 2016, it was bucketing down with rain. We stood for about an hour in the rain waiting to be welcomed onto Te Tii Marae.

Amazing Vibe

Waitangi has an especially amazing vibe during Waitangi Day celebrations. The Treaty grounds are taken over by about 150 stalls.

It was a convivial event with music, laughter and children playing.

I was pleasantly surprised, because all the media reports that I had read about Waitangi focused on the protests and the sometimes-hostile treatment of politicians on the Marae.

It was a surreal experience to be in a place on a day that holds such historical and political significance for New Zealand.

I feel very strongly that we have a responsibility as migrants to learn New Zealand’s history and understand the place that tangata whenua occupies in that history. For too long now, there has been a struggle between biculturalism and multiculturalism.

Conflicting ideas

Some people consider biculturalism as restrictive because it excludes ethnic communities. Others consider multiculturalism a threat to the bicultural framework within which New Zealand operates.

They are concerned about the effect of multiculturalism on the status accorded to tangata whenua, the people of the land.

I believe that we need both.

As popular Public Lawyer Mai Chen said, “We need to start talking about multiculturalism on a bicultural base.”

The Treaty

I learnt about Te Tiriti O Waitangi relatively recently.

It was when I was studying a paper that dealt with issues of race-relations that I learnt about its two different versions, the original in te reo Maori and the other in English translation and the way it has shaped Pakeha-Maori relations.

I learnt about the land wars and confiscation, the struggle that Maori went through to preserve te reo Maori and their culture.

It was then that I started to understand the Treaty settlement process and the protests on Waitangi Day.

A public meeting that I attended recently in Pt England highlighted the importance of learning Maori history.

The meeting was called to hear the views of residents on a government Bill that would enable the sale of a third of the Pt England Reserve to Ngati Paoa as part of their Treaty settlement process.

There were various views expressed, both for and against the sale of the land.

However, there were a couple of questions that led me to realise that there was a need for more education around the Treaty settlement and negotiation process – why it is happening and what it entails.

As New Zealanders, we are all in this together.

As migrants, Aotearoa’s history has become ours.

The onus is on us to find out about the historical injustices and understand the attempts being made to address those wrongs.

Naku te rourou nau te rourou ka ora ai te iwi

With your basket and my basket, the people will live.

Priyanca Radhakrishnan is a Member of the Policy Council of the Labour Party, which has chosen her as its candidate for the Maungakiekie constituency in the general elections to be held this year.

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