Today is Waitangi Day. It is the day in 1840 on which Commodore James Hobson signed the Treaty of Waitangi with Maori chiefs. Te Tiriti O Waitangi was intended to give the British sovereignty over New Zealand, and the Governor the right to govern the country. The Maori view differed somewhat in that they had ceded the right to governance without giving up the right to manage their own affairs.
I cannot help but wonder what the non-English immigrant populations who have settled in New Zealand think of Te Tiriti O Waitangi, and of relations between Maori and non-Maori. Has any academic conducted formal kaupapa Maori research with leaders in Maoridom to see what the perceptions of their people are about the understanding New Zealand’s immigrant population has when it comes to the Treaty? Do they believe it should be kept separate from celebrating New Zealand’s overall identity?
But at the same time, who has talked to all of the many ethnic groups living in New Zealand, be they Chinese or Colombian, Fijian or Somali, Iranian or Serbian. What do they think of the Treaty of Waitangi? What do they actually know about the history behind it? Do they feel a need for a day where they can celebrate their sense of belonging in New Zealand.
On A.N.Z.A.C. Day many more people show a much greater degree of respect towards New Zealand as a nation. We turn up in our thousands to dawn services. The great/grandchildren of war vets wear their great/grandparents medals. New Zealand schools spend time and effort coming up to each A.N.Z.A.C. Day learning about the day and our military history. Media devote columns and air time to documenting new discoveries about our war time past.
Some people say A.N.Z.A.C. Day is a more New Zealand day. Certainly it is one of general unity. With one or two exceptions from peace activists who should have known better than to do so, it is protest free. But in the same sense that Waitangi Day is primarily about the Treaty, which has little real significance to those of ethnic groups not from New Zealand, how much do non-New Zealanders relate to A.N.Z.A.C. Day?
This is why I support New Zealand Dominion Day (26 September)becoming a day that all New Zealanders can come together on and celebrate our nation, our way of life. There are 364 other days of the year when Treaty politics can be debated, where iwi can debate the ins and outs of wrapping up the remainder of the grievance settlements. But a day when all New Zealanders, tangata whenua or not,come to celebrate being one of the brightest prospects in the international community is not that day.
So let us enjoy Waitangi Day tomorrow. I hope the ceremonies at the Marae go well . But let us remember Waitangi Day is not about ALL New Zealanders. And that there are other days on the calendar which CAN be.