by Catherine Delahunty
A couple of bloggers who comment on the performance of Maori MPs have recently included me in their analysis because of the Te Tiriti focus in my political work. One of them commented that I am a “born again Maori” whose heart is in the right place. It is flattering to be included but curious that some cannot see that my work is driven by a commitment to Te Tiriti, not a yearning to have a whakapapa I do not have.
My whakapapa includes a strong Irish tradition of activism and my education has included a grounding in Te Tiriti, the articles and the relationships. My understanding is that all of us who are not tangata whenua are Tangata Tiriti, the people who benefit from the 1840 agreement which is yet to be honoured but which gives us status under Article 1. The honouring of the agreement is our responsibility as beneficiaries of the agreement. If we don’t take on this challenge we are occupiers, not honourable negotiators, because majority rule isn’t any part of the arrangements Te Tiriti offers us. So I see nothing odd about standing up for Te Tiriti rights be it a land issue or a polluted river or a matter of social justice, water or education.
I speak out on Te Tiriti issues because it is the responsibility of all of us, Pakeha or tauiwi from other places to monitor the Crown actions in our name. If we are part of the kawanatanga or non-Maori governance structure we have to make sure that we keep our representatives up to scratch and committed to the fairness which has yet to be implemented in this country.
This is not simply a theoretical position – it means going on hikoi, speaking out with respect to Te Tiriti and often being misunderstood as either a traitor to western assumptions of legitimate dominance or a wannabe Maori. I have learned from some of the best who work on these issues that silence is consent. Some of us believe this could be a better country if Te Tiriti was fully honoured in local, regional and national life and that all of us would benefit.
We celebrate progress and we challenge unexamined privilege, I am grateful to my mentors both Maori and Pakeha who keep me at least attempting to play a useful role. Pakeha like Mitzi Nairn who started anti-racism work in Auckland years ago, Professor David Williams who is leading Treaty lawyer and Christine Herzog of the Treaty Resource Centre to name but a few.
I am also proud to be in the Green Party where our constitution upholds the indigenous text of Te Tiriti. It is a bit of a shame that my voice is noted as unusual, after all it takes two to tango, and Tangata Tiriti really cannot rely on the Government of the day to make this work. We need to engage critically to make sure our side of the bargain is something we can all be proud of.