Treaty of Waitangi and the Maori Ethnic Movement

Jennifer Lee '99 (English 27, Spring '97)

In February of 1840, 512 Maori chiefs and the British Crown, represented by William Hobson, signed a treaty and formally ushered in the era of the Pakeha into New Zealand history. Even today this Treaty of Waitangi, as it is known, remains the foundation of Maori-Pakeha relations. It is also the root of Maori-Pakeha tensions. The story begins with the fact that the document was, of course, drafted in two languages ( two languages, two cultures, two peoples. For some Pakeha, it is merely a matter of semantics, but for the Maori, the wording is illustrative of all the injustices that have been dealt to their people at the hands of these European settlers. Either way, the Treaty of Waitangi is amazingly symbolic of the distance between the Maori and the Pakeha as there was in the beginning, and as there is now. This paper, then, is an attempt to understand the development ,the achievements, and the controversies of Maori ethnic mobilization as they pertain to the Treaty of Waitangi and the disparity, real or imagined, that exists between the Maori and the Pakeha.

The British version of the Treaty granted the Maori the rights of citizenship and obliged the Crown to protect the Maori "in the exercise of their government over their lands, villages, and treasures." These parts are made clear in both languages. In the first Article of the Treaty, however, it was written that the Maori were, in exchange for these services, to:

cede to Her Majesty the Queen of England absolutely and without reservation all the rights and powers of Sovereignty which the said Confederation or Individual Chiefs respectively exercise or possess, or may be supposed to exercise or posses over their respective Territories as the sole Sovereigns thereof.

The Maori chiefs, on the other hand, had signed a document which translated: The Chiefs of the Confederation and all the Chiefs not in that confederation cede without reservation to the Queen of England forever the Governorship of all their lands.

The discrepancy lies in the use of the word kawanatanga instead of mana in the Maori version, when governorship is the translation and sovereignty is intended meaning in the English version. It is clear from an earlier work that the translator was aware that the term for sovereignty in the Maori language is mana. It is here, then, that the nature of British intentions is first cast in doubt. According to Walker,

Ceding governorship is not the same as ceding sovereignty. A governor is merely a satrap who rules on behalf of the sovereign. Furthermore, there were no governors in New Zealand as a referent by which the chiefs would have more readily understood the term. Their understanding of kawanatanga would be understood as a benign term not even remotely connected with the basic question of sovereignty. But if sovereignty had been translated as mana whenua, ėsovereignty over land', then the chiefs would have had no doubt as to its meaning. It is highly probable that they would not have signed the Treaty.

The controversy continues in the second article where the English version guaranteed the chiefs and tribes of New Zealand, families and individuals:

the full exclusive and undisturbed possession of their Lands and Estates Forests Fisheries and other properties which they may collectively or individually possess...

The Maori version, on the other hand, fails to specify those properties which, under treaty, would remain in Maori hands. Instead, the translation explains that the chiefs and tribes, families and individuals would maintain:

the full chieftainship of their lands their homes and all their treasures things.

From the first Article, the Maori chiefs were led to believe that they were to hold on to their sovereignty, that "The shadow of the land will pass to Queen Victoria, but the substance remains to us." The use of the word rangatiratanga, which translates into chieftainship, in the second Article only serves to prolong that illusion.

Taken together, these two seemingly minor linguistic discrepancies have become two of the most controversial and complicated points in Maori-Pakeha relations. Nevertheless, it cannot be fairly said that the British were intentionally tilting the scales in their favor when they wrote the treaty, even though that was the result. The Treaty was signed before any large influx of settlers arrived, as it was born out of a desire to shelter the Maori from the inevitable plagues of future European immigration. It offered far more along the lines of rights and protection than any other treaty the British had signed, even going so far as to guarantee citizenship, and it allowed for Maori self-government as well. Therefore, as history will show, it is probably safe to assume that the British were resigned to the reality that the Treaty would go the way of so many other indigenous treaties, and certainly that they never intended it to take on the far-reaching implications that it has today. Indeed, even though the language of the Treaty is the basis from which many Maori protests arise today, it is still only the basis. The Treaty of Waitangi promises a number of rights to the Maori, and most of them the Maori feel have never been satisfied.


Postcolonial Overview Australia New Zealand Australia Changes in the Social Sector It is clearer now why Levine and Henare stress the importance of a pan-Maori movement rather than a tribally based movement. The fact of rampant poverty and unemployment, illiteracy and violence within the Maori community is probably the most compelling evidence there is. Desperation makes for separation, as tribal groups like O'Regan's Ngai Tahu who bolt for the cash at the expense of the whole Maori movement, will demonstrate. And that tribe is considerably wealthy. What happens when economic situations are so bad that the government can buy off individuals, or tribes, one by one? Then how will any of the rights that are promised under the Treaty of Waitangi ever be fulfilled? This is perhaps a question for the long-term survival of the Maori people, but there is also the short-term situation to consider. Who is going to provide for the estimated 150,000 Maori living in cities alienated from their tribal roots, if not the tribe, and if not the state? The solution to the problems of urban Maori especially, but also rural Maori must be tackled by the Maori themselves, looking out for one another and looking to make sure that the state does what it pledged to do in the Treaty. The situation in terms of social services has improved considerably as time has passed. During the 1960s, after the notorious Hunn report was issued, Maori services suffered an enormous loss, as the report recommended that a policy of integration be adopted. The problem with the non-Maori specific programs in the Maori welfare that grew out of this policy was that they were insensitive to Maori cultural needs. Indeed, the prevailing idea behind this policy was that the Pakeha system was modern and sympathetic and universally applicable whereas the traditional Maori ways were backwards and inefficient. This attitude led to the dissolution of the Native Schools Division of the Department of Education, the extension of general social services to all Maori, and the repealing of the right of the Maori Land Court in deciding adoption cases. This last action was especially difficult for the Maori to accept because their ideas on family are completely different from Pakeha ideas. The concepts of community-rearing and extended family are crucial in the upbringing of a Maori child, and unfortunately under law, they were no longer recognized during the integration period the 1960s. Like everything else in New Zealand, however, family services also underwent dramatic change in the following decade when the Maori ethnic resurgence occurred. One of the most important developments during the 1970s had to do with language. Anderson referred to the vernacular language as essential component of the original nationalizing process in conjunction with capitalism and the printed word. For Anderson, the formation of a nation is contingent upon the existence of a common vernacular, and in the case of the Maori, it is te reo Maori. Ever since Pakeha schools wre introduced to the Maori people, English has been the language of school children and then of their children. The Maori language was in true danger of dying out. Then in 1985, a complaint was filed with the Waitangi Tribunal declaring that te reo Maori should be recognized as an official language in New Zealand. To this end, the Tribunal once again evoked the notion of taonga and set down favorable recommendations which the government subsequently accepted. Prior to the decision, a common complaint among Maori parents had been that "their efforts are nullified by the present education system and that their children lose their Maori fluency after six months or so at primary school where they are swamped with English and never hear so much as one word of Maori." Afterwards, however, the complaints were from the Pakeha: Revelations in the past few days that four out of five South Auckland children can't read or write sufficiently to cope with secondary school have "horrified and astounded" the Education Review Office's Judith Aitken, but here is nothing remarkable about it when you consider one of the worst results of treaty worship is the elevation of Maori culture to the number one spot in schools. Teachers increasingly dismiss reading, writing and arithmetic as unimportant "pakeha" concepts, irrelevant to kids growing up in a Polynesian culture. In addition, another important result of Maori ethnic moblization was the Children, Young Persons and Their Families Act. This piece of legislation was designed so that the family is always consulted in the case of a child welfare or juvenile correction case to avoid taking those cases to court. There is no doubt that this act was designed with specific cultural needs in mind, however, there are still concerns with the act. To be effective, this required an environment in which the introduction of different processes, different types of spirit and underlying philosophies and different outcomes from those traditionally available in criminal justice contexts was made possible. That this has not yet fully occurred speaks to the power of traditional systems to resist reform. And it speaks to the power of resources. The failure to fund adequately iwi and cultural authorities as envisaged under the act has meant that the new system cannot fulfill its true potential. Much of what was intended has remained rhetoric. The future looks bright for the same Maori activism which brought about these changes. Clearly, the state must respond to the Maori, as such events as the annual Waitangi Day Celebration have a tendency to attract much Maori wrath and much international media coverage as well. Indeed, it is unfortunate that the Maori and the Pakeha seem to play a zero-sum game - a gain for one is a loss for the other, and it is doubly so that activism in the name of the Treaty, in particular, will always be antagonistic. Nevertheless, the Treaty of Waitangi is inherently a binding mechanism, bringing together two different peoples who must learn to live together on equal ground, one way or another.

Postcolonial Overview Australia New Zealand