06 February 2011

Waitangi Day, New Zealand

Identity is shaped by many things, not least of which is nationality or local history. I grew up thinking of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln much the same way I thought of my great grandfather and other ancestors. I was a product of and benefited from what they had done years and generations before me. I had a place in history and that place rested on names and dates and events I was reminded of in books, movies, stories, and ceremonies.


Non-Americans ponder the patriotism they see on display in the U.S., sometimes with respect and often with derision. The sheer quantity of flags staggers visitors and onlookers.

Living overseas for so many years has given me a vantage point that I appreciate and am grateful for. It has also introduced me to different national histories and given me the opportunity to participate in some different events. I've celebrated Waitangi Dy by going to a Pasifika music festival where I was definitely pale by comparison. I've gotten up early for ANZAC Day parades and ceremonies.

This weekend is Waitangi Day in New Zealand, commemorating the signing of a much misinterpreted treaty between the Maori, aboriginal settlers of these islands, with the representatives of Queen Victoria.

Every year on 6 February, New Zealand marks the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840. In that year, representatives of the British Crown and over 500 Maori chiefs signed what is New Zealand’s founding document.

The day was first officially commemorated in 1934, and it has been a public holiday since 1974.For some people, Waitangi Day is a holiday; for many, and especially for Maori, it is the occasion for reflecting on the Treaty.

Since the 1970s the style and mood of the commemorations on Waitangi Day have been influenced by the increasingly heated debate surrounding the place of the Treaty in modern New Zealand.Waitangi Day is recognised as New Zealand's national day, but the long-standing tensions associated with it are always likely to surface in one form or another. The date is an important marker in the country's history. NZ History

Every country needs leaders and no significant change happens without them.

The photo shows Apirana Ngata leading members of the Maori Battalion in a haka in front of the whare runanga on the Waitangi treaty house grounds at the 1940 centennial celebrations.

Apirana Ngata (1874–1950), of Ngati Porou, was born at Te Araroa on the East Coast. He graduated from Te Aute College, and later completed an MA and a law degree. He was the first Maori to complete a degree at a New Zealand University. He returned to the East Coast and became involved in improving Maori social and economic conditions.

Unlike a number of other tribes, Ngati Porou had kept much of their land. The young Ngata, armed with legal expertise and determined to achieve progressive farming techniques and land tenure reform, encouraged sheep farming and investment in land development.

In 1905 Ngata was elected to Parliament representing Eastern Maori. He was to retain the seat until 1943. He was a superb debater and a hard worker.

During the First World War Ngata maintained a Ngati Porou tradition of loyalty to the Crown, and recruited Maori servicemen. He later built on the respect Maori servicemen had won during the war, achieving inquiries into many long-standing land grievances. Among them was the Sim Commission, which investigated land confiscations after the wars of the 1860s and upheld many grievances, despite limited terms of reference.

In 1927 Ngata received a knighthood, and in the following year became Native Minister in the United government. He was now able to press ahead with state-funded Maori land development, and set up land development schemes all over the country. His wider aim was to strengthen Maori communities and revive Maori culture.

Much of his success came from working through traditional tribal structures. In his land development work Ngata also encouraged a revival in Maori art and cultural studies. NZ History

I'll be camping North of Auckland, reading an art magazine and the next book for my book club. I'll go to a music concert and enjoy a slice of Kiwi culture without flying any particular flag.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Jill

I was wondering if I could use one of your images on an internet site I'm developing please? It's the image of the signing of the treaty of Waitangi. Is it royalt free?

Many thanks.
Jude