It’s fantastic that the government has agreed to a hold a national day commemorating the New Zealand land wars. Announced at Kingi Tūheitia’s 10th koroneihana celebrations, alongside the return of Rangiriri Pā to the Kingitanga, the news marked a significant milestone on our journey to honour Te Tiriti o Waitangi and right historical injustices.
I congratulate the community, iwi leaders and all who campaigned for this, on their significant achievement. In particular, I acknowledge the young Otorohanga College students Waimarama Anderson, Leah Bell, and their friends who initiated the 12,000 strong petition that sparked off this campaign. Their incredible work put this issue firmly on the political agenda of this country, stimulating discussion and debate, which has now resulted in a national commemoration.
I received the petition alongside Nanaia Mahuta when the girls and a large ope from Tainui brought it to Parliament last year.
Their amazing achievement proves the power and influence we can have in our whānau, hapū, iwi and communities as politically engaged wāhine Māori. These kōtiro are an inspiration to us all. I consider one of my most important roles as a Māori woman MP, is encouraging young Māori woman to use their skills and talents in to represent us in politics and media, so I will be using the story of Waimarama and Leah’s campaign whenever I’m talking with our young women – their story is a perfect example of not needing to be an MP or have any status to make real change for our people.
As a Party that has, at our foundation, a commitment to recognise Māori as tangata whenua and honour Te Tiriti, the Greens have strongly supported the campaign for greater recognition of our collective history.
It’s also really important that this history is taught in all public schools in Aotearoa. Currently, there is no requirement for high school teachers to include the land wars either in their junior social studies classes or in the senior history curriculum. I was really disappointed when Education Minister Hekia Parata argued that she wouldn’t make it compulsory because “that is not the New Zealand way, we do not compel specific things”. That simply ignores the fact that most subjects and specific topics kids learn are compulsory!
The New Zealand land wars were a direct result of the historical breaches in Te Tiriti o Waitangi which began to alienate tangata whenua from their land and resources. Labelling our people as rebels, and declaring entire regions to be in Pākehā ownership, the government then tried to exterminate Māori under this guise. Due to the enduring strength and resilience of our tūpuna, they failed.
Ever since we have had to fight the survival of our culture and our very existence as Māori on our own whenua. This struggle is encansuplated in the call made by Rewi Maniapoto on the battlements of Ōrākau in the Waikato land wars, “Ka whawhai tonu mātou, ake, ake, ake!”
We have a responsibility to recognise this, the most shameful episode in our history, so that we can move forward together, as Māori and Pākehā, working to honour the promise of shared nationhood that is at the heart of the Treaty relationship.