I went to Hoani Waititi Marae today, for Waitangi Day.
And it was overflowing with people, predominantly Māori.
It felt like a gift,
To be there,
Soaking everything up.
I wished I’d learned te Reo when I was at school. I tried – in 6th form. But I hadn’t done the prequisites, so was forced to take Japanese instead.
Today, I listened to the MCs, delivering fluently in both languages, and I picked up the words, here and there that I knew, as they bantered in between music acts.
It meant something to me, being there. The gross injustices of the history of Aotearoa have always lived in my heart.
The discrepancies between the Māori version of Te Tiriti o Waitangi and the English version. Beyond that, the way te Tiriti was ignored within a few years.
And how Hōne Heke, initially in favour of te Tirit, was dismayed and disappointed at what unfolded.
“Hōne Heke, a Christian, had a close relationship with missionary Henry Williams, and, at the signing of the Treaty in 1840, he believed Williams’ assurances that the authority of Māori chiefs would be protected.
The following day, he was the first of more than 40 northern chiefs to sign.
Four years later, disillusioned by the failure of colonisation to bring his people economic prosperity and by the increasing control of the British government over Māori affairs, Heke ordered the cutting down of the flagpole at the British settlement of Kororāreka (which had recently been renamed Russell). This was intended to show displeasure at the British government without threatening Pākehā settlers. Over the following months, the flagpole was re-erected and cut down again three times. The final felling, in March 1845, signalled war between British troops and some northern Māori.” Source: https://nzhistory.govt.nz/people/hone-heke
And so war did begin, as Māori began to fight for that which the British were taking for them. Of course, it was messy, with some iwi, and sometimes hapū within other iwi, choosing to side with the British, for their own reasons.
On the flipside, English soldiers – often the Irish – switched sides too, feeling more kinship with Māori than with the colonisers they were meant to fight for.
The land confiscations that followed were no less messy. Often the land taken had less to do with iwi actions during the wars, and more to do with the desirability of the land.
And so it went on… the passing of laws that systematically stripped Māori of their land, power and rights. Right up until the 1950s when the 1953 Māori Affairs Act was passed, which forced “unproductive” Māori land into use.
In 1967, this act was further amended.
“Māori worried that the law would result in further alienation of what land remained. A member of the Maori Council called this the ‘last land-grab’. There were strong protests, including street demonstrations. The law was modified in 1974, and drafting of a new act began.”
This is not ancient history. This is recent. Hell, 1840 is recent.
My recall of these events is only through books and research. I have no personal history tied up in any of this. My ancestors arrived here in 1868, settling on the Taeri Plains. This was likely part of the Kemp Purchase, made in the early 1860s.
Land for them was simply something they bought and farmed.
I don’t know what it’s like to be Māori in New Zealand, but I’m sure it’s different from my lived experience. For one, the events I learned through books and research, many Māori lived through, or heard stories from their tīpuna. It’s woven into their family histories. It happened to them.
Today, along with 20,000 other people, I had a chance to go and be in a world that feels like home to me, even though it’s not.
I can’t explain the feeling I had being on the marae today.
I may not be Māori, but I feel wairua. It’s just something that lives inside my heart.
And I know damn well which side I would have been on in the wars.
Written by Kara-Leah Grant.
Re-published here on wild & grace media|events, with her permission.
Photo credit: Amandala. Photo taken at the pōwhiri at Wanderlust Great Lake Taupō, 2016. https://www.amandala-photography.com/
Kara-Leah is an internationally-renowned teacher, writer and retreat leader. Millions of people have been impacted by the articles, books and videos she has published over the last ten years.
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