Wednesday, 6 February 2019

Waitangi Day, the Treaty and its Articles

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A Colmer Brunton poll in Feb.2017 found 31% of Kiwis thought Government should not attend the Waitangi celebrations. I wonder it that's changed.
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It made headlines when Jacinda Ardern, among others, did not know the Articles of the Treaty of Waitangi, and the interviewer did not enlighten us. Indeed,  of the dozen or so articles published on Waitangi 2019 so far, not one has dealt with the Articles —or the history of the Treaty. Here's a brief summary:


The treaty had an English and a Maori version, and was signed over several months in different parts of the country. Most Maori signed the Maori version but for some reason Waikato chiefs signed the English version.

Understandably, some English concepts were not easily translated into Maori, and many, perhaps all, chiefs thought they were signed something quite different from what they and the English thought they were signing. And a number of chiefs refused to sign.

The Chiefs signed the Treaty hoping it would control sale of land to European settlers, control unruly Europeans, foster trade, and stop inter-tribal fighting.

The Crown wanted a treaty to enable Settlers and Maori to live together under a common sets of laws or agreements. The Missionaries supported the Treaty hoping to contain undesirable European influences. The influential NZ Company, that established settlements in Wanganui, Nelson, Wellington and Dunedin, strongly opposed it. They wanted to purchase as much land as possible at cheap prices. Successive NZ Governors and the Colonial Office accused the Company of "trickery" and "lies" because of its many questionable, and often illegal, land purchases. Many were not corrected.

This is not the place, on the anniversary of the signing of NZ's founding document, to delve into the deceptions and broken promises that followed. But the children in our now multi-racial, multi-cultural society should be taught about them as part of our NZ history, and our media has a responsibility to belatedly teach adults. We have much to gain by sharing our cultures.

Today is Waitangi Day, a national holiday since 1974. Today we should focus on the positive, and look forward to doing much more to ensure true equality for all New Zealanders. This not to be confused with "sameness" for treating people the same is often inappropriate and results in more inequality.

The Treaty was not recognized in NZ law until the Treaty of Waitangi Act 1975, which established the Treaty of Waitangi Tribunal, but it is legally effective only to the extent that it is recognized in other Acts of Parliament. It has no independent status. Other Acts referring to the Treaty deal with natural resources, environmental legislation and Maori-specific parts of the law such as Maori land law.

Article 1.
Maori version: The chiefs gave the Queen "te Kawanatanga katoa", the governance, or government, over the land.
English version: The chiefs gave the Queen "all the rights and powers of sovereignty" over the land and its people.

There is a significant difference in the meaning of "Kawanatanga" and "sovereignty". Kawana is a transliteration of "governance" which Maori would only have understood in the context of the Bible (e.g., Pontius Pilate) and the title given to the Governor of New South Wales.

Article 2.
Maori version: Maori were confirmed and guaranteed "te tino rangatiratanga" over the land, villages and all property and treasures ("taonga katoa"). Maori also gave the Crown the right to buy land from them if they wished to sell.

English version: Confirmed and guaranteed the "exclusive and undisturbed possession of their lands and estates, forests, fisheries and other properties." The chiefs also agreed to "yield to Her Majesty the exclusive right of pre-emption (over) such lands as the proprietors thereof may be disposed to alienate." Land could only be sold to the Crown.

The Maori version emphases status and authority; the English version property and ownership rights. It is unlikely the Maori text clearly conveyed the full implications of the concepts of buy and sell, or Crown pre-emption — the exclusive right to purchase and the subsequent loss of that land for all time. Maori thought of user-rights for a limited time; the Crown of permanent alienation.

Article 3.
Maori version: The Crown gave the assurance that Maori would have the Queen's protection and all rights (tikanga") accorded to British subjects.

This appears to be an accurate translation of the English version. Both versions emphasised equality.

My summary on the Treaty and its Articles is based on "The Story of the Treaty" booklets, published by the State Services Commission in 2004-2005.

-- ACW


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