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Maori and the State: Crown-Māori relations in New Zealand/Aotearoa, 1950-2000

The Treaty of Waitangi

The Treaty of Waitangi

The Treaty of Waitangi tended to be iconically central to the political claims of many of the new single-and multi-issue radical movements, with activists rarely separating out Treaty rights from more general issues of race, class and capitalist exploitation. The Treaty had always been, in Ngata’s words in the 1920s, ‘on the lips of the humble and the great, of the ignorant and of the thoughtful’. There had been many and varied proposals to have the Treaty ‘ratified’ or adhered to by the Crown. Hunn commented in 1963 that ‘[p]ressure from the Maori people to ratify the Treaty of Waitangi has been sustained over the years and will presently be exerted again in a Petition to Parliament’. In a speech before the Queen on Waitangi Day of that year, NZMC president Turi Carroll hoped that Her Majesty would ‘fully understand and sympathise with the desire of the Maori people to press for the embodiment of the Treaty in our country’s statutes’. But such requests posed the Crown something of a ‘dilemma’, as Hunn put it, and the many vigorous calls for ratification were never heeded.

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Those seeking ratification generally focused on rights to land and resources claimed under Article Two and, more broadly, on that article’s Maori-language promise of Crown recognition of rangatiratanga. Campaigns tended to highlight the issue of the ongoing alienation of what little Maori-owned land was left, and the Maori bond with turangawaewae, their tribal ‘place to stand’, underpinned such claims. Ratification of the Treaty, especially entailing its incorporation in legislation, it was argued, would serve to better guarantee Maori rights and prevent continued alienation of their resources.

It was hoped, too, that ratification would also ensure Maori had equal rights as citizens, as promised under Article Three of the Treaty. The 1966 petition of Rangi Makawe Rangitaura of Waitara and others, for example, called for ratification of the Treaty, repeal of discriminatory Maori land legislation, review of land claims and other grievances, and winding up the paternalistic DMA. It referred to ‘two vital matters in the Treaty’: ‘ALL the rights and privileges of British subjects’, and the preservation of Maori land ownership. In matters of land and citizenship there was, the petitioners claimed, ‘one law for pakeha and another for the Maori’. In the towns and cities, discrimination and racism made equal citizenship a particularly pressing issue.7

While Maori leaders had often sought its ratification in the past, the Treaty was put to new ends in the 1970s, providing as it did a solid foundation and point of focus for protest. The emphasis went increasingly on compensating for the violated guarantees of Article Two and securing proactive Crown recognition of the rangatiratanga it had promised. Given the government’s stated intention following the Hunn report to continue alienating Maori land, activists saw land retention as an achievable target of great importance – one symbolic of many others, as well as being highly important per se. Nga Tamatoa cast Waitangi Day as a ‘day of mourning’ in 1971, and protested against Maori land loss at the official celebrations at Waitangi. When it called for a Maori boycott of the 1972 Waitangi Day celebrations, a new era of Maori pressure on government could be said to have fully begun. The group was, recalled one of its leaders, ‘seeking nothing less than the restoration of what we once had’; the stakes were seen to be very high indeed.

Waitangi Day-centred protest activities now occurred annually, and there were continuing actions of various nature in between. Activist tactics often alienated the very many elders who believed that the key to the future lay in dialogue rather than confrontation. Young protestors frequently used ‘direct action’ and other methods borrowed from socialist and liberation movements overseas (although armed or otherwise violent resistance remained confined to the realm of small-group rhetoric). The confrontational approach of activists sometimes led to tense encounters with traditional and conservative Maori leaders and people. Tribal elder Eruera Stirling believed that Maori youth werepage 155 ‘trampling on the mana of their elders and degrading the customs of their own people … The men of chiefly line are the right ones to talk about these things’. And in the official, quasi-official and other committees up and down the land, too, the work of rangatiratanga proceeded along relatively conciliatory lines.

Nevertheless, there was a general acknowledgement in Maoridom that, as one activist later recalled, ‘we were driven by the old people. We were driven by their pain more than ours’. Indeed, activists often deliberately engaged in ‘an attempt to create an ethnic identity that would unite bearers of traditional grievance with alienated urban youth, working families, and the unemployed’. It was not their cause that was queried by many tribal and other leaders, but their methods. Some traditional chiefs and other established community leaders displayed a ‘shrewd appreciation that Maori causes could well be served by the frisson of apprehension which unruly dissident youth could provoke among complacent Pakeha’, and elders often stood by radical activists who were arrested and charged.

The annual protests on 6 February drew public attention to the many issues revolving around the loss of indigenous resources and of ‘Maori identity in the face of the forces of acculturation’. While activists’ confrontational methods remained inimical to most elders, their autonomy-based goals were increasingly approved by Maori leaders in many arenas, tribal and otherwise – including some working within the NZMC structure. With many liberal pakeha also lending their support to Maori causes and beginning to look outside the monocultural, assimilationist paradigm, the Crown had little choice but to begin to address the various intellectual, ethnic, cultural and other challenges it was presented with. It felt particularly obliged to listen when activists and traditionalists confirmed that they shared aims and goals, if not methods.8

7 Ngata, Apirana, The Treaty of Waitangi: An Explanation, trans Jones, M R, Wellington, 1963 (original: Te Tiriti o Waitangi: He Whakamarama, Hastings, 1922); J K Hunn to Secretary External Affairs, Alister D McIntosh, 1 Feb 1963, MA, W2459, Box 163, Part 1, 19/1/55/1, Treaty of Waitangi – General and Policy and Submissions by New Zealand Council, 1971–1971; Carroll, Turi, Speech to Her Majesty the Queen, Waitangi Day gathering, 6 Feb 1963, MA, W2459, Box 163, Part 1, 19/1/55/1, Treaty of Waitangi – General and Policy and Submissions by New Zealand Council, 1971–1971; Orange, The Treaty of Waitangi, pp 228–46; Harrison, Graham Latimer, p 107; Petition of Rangi Makawe Rangitaura of Big Jim’s Hill, Waitara, and Others, 1966, in Supplement no 1 to Maori Organisation on Human Rights, September Newsletter, 1972, 99-278-05/06, Papers re the Race Relations Bill, Trevor Richards Papers, Alexander Turnbull Library (p 3 for quotes).

8 National Council of Churches Programme on Racism, ‘Legislation Betrays the Treaty of Waitangi’, nd, 99-266-10/1, Folder 4, Treaty of Waitangi, Alexander Turnbull Library; Ngata, H K, ‘The Treaty of Waitangi and Land’, Parts of the Current Law in Contravention of the Treaty seminar, Victoria University of Wellington, Feb 1972, reproduced in Maori Organisation on Human Rights, Newsletter, 6 Feb 1973, 85-002-02, Papers relating to human rights, South Pacific writers and literature, John Owen O’Conner Papers, Alexander Turnbull Library; Hohepa, P K, ‘Waitangi: A Promise or a Betrayal’, Papers in Race Relations no 2, 85-002-02, Papers relating to human rights, South Pacific writers and literature, John Owen O’Conner Papers, Alexander Turnbull Library (p 5 re ‘day of mourning’); ‘Nga Reo: Syd Jackson – The Life and Times of a Fully-Fledged Activist’, Tawera Productions, Television New Zealand, 2003 (for ‘seeking nothing less’ quote); Butterworth, ‘Aotearoa 1769–1988’, ch 10, p 3; Orange, The Treaty of Waitangi, pp 244, 248; Harris, Hīkoi, pp 25–6; Stirling, Eruera (as told to Anne Salmond), Eruera: The Teachings of a Maori Elder, Wellington, 1980, p 225; McLoughlin, David, ‘Singing Her Own Song’, Dominion Post, 4 Feb 2003, p B5 (for ‘we were driven’ quote); Hazlehurst, Political Expression, p 19 (for ‘an attempt to create’ quote), p 21 (for ‘shrewd appreciation’ quote), p 22; Ballara, Proud to Be White? p 163 (for ‘Maori identity’ quote).