As usual, our MSM does its infotainment coverage of Waitangi Day, this year with our PM leading the jonolistic charge.
The corporate media loves a bit of drama and conflict, and tends to tell it from the position of the dominant Pakeha culture. And the corporate news media has little historical focus beyond the ratings-driven drama of the day. It does nothing to counter the myths that keep getting re-circulated in relation to Waitangi Day and beyond.
It is necessary to look elsewhere to get an understanding of the impact the of colonisation and the realities of the Treaty of Waitangi for Māori. Today Morgan Godfery’s latest post outlines the history of Waitangi Day, and the myths around it. He begins with a Waitangi Day bingo card (take a look via the link, it says a lot), then explains:
Bingo is a witty critique of Waitangi Day clichés, but it’s also something more: this is the geography of Pakeha myth-making. Each box is a false political claim. Prepare to hear each claim repeatedly and under the worn robe of “debate”.
Waitangi Day angst isn’t new. Respected columnists will declare the day “broke”, less-respected columnists might announce it’s “a day of lies” while others will broadcast accusations of reverse racism. But most will plea for unity. Yet navigate the calls for unity with caution. Underneath the plea is a denial – Maori have no right to protest their lot. This is the movement to rebrand Waitangi Day.
In 1973 the third Labour government introduced the New Zealand Day Act. Although Waitangi Day had always been acknowledged, that acknowledgment wasn’t codified in a public holiday. New Zealand Day – a misnomer – was intended to become the foundation of national identity. A splendid celebration of nationhood.
Except it wasn’t. There could never be unity without equality. The betrayal of the Treaty went too deep, and the collateral effects of Treaty breaches went too far, for Maori to accept a celebration of nationhood that didn’t exist. In 1973 Nga Tamatoa occupied Waitangi with black armbands. They declared the day one of mourning for the broken promises of the Treaty including the loss of millions of hectares of Maori land.
Godfery continues with the history of the Day. He then explains why, and how Waitangi Day has a different meaning for Māori from the one represented in the dominant, Pakeha dominated discourse. The post ends:
The health, wealth and education gaps exist and they exist off the back of the broken promises of the Treaty. Waitangi Day is where Maori can reveal New Zealand’s separate realities.
But the movement to rebrand Waitangi Day won’t acknowledge that. It’s easier to switch the conversation than acknowledge that one group is dominant over the other. This is the new assimilation – the battle for history and contemporary meaning. There is a regular plea to make Waitangi Day “our” day. The layers of meaning are clear: Waitangi Day belongs to monocultural nationhood, not multicultural pluralism. Sit down or shut up. That disrespects Maori realities. But it also misunderstands the Treaty itself: the Treaty didn’t create New Zealand – that came later – the Treaty created a bicultural relationship.
I’m not going to celebrate the birth of a nation or protest the failed promise of that nation. I’ll quietly honour the legacy of resistance and those who are getting it done. I’ll acknowledge that colonisation isn’t a distant tragedy, but an on-going process. Maori know it because they experience it. Pakeha might not, but that’s no excuse to deny Maori their agency on Waitangi Day. Myths have many authors, but reality can expose them. That’s what Waitangi Day is about most of all.
I hope you take the time to read the full post by Morgan Godfery, because it explains the significance of the Day very clearly. And the bingo card provides an excellent graphic summary of the myths of Waitangi Day.
Meanwhile, the hikoi continues at Waitangi, focused on protecting our lands and seas from destructive corporate exploitation. And, of course 3 News last night just talked up the conflict and divisions. Although Hone Harawira’s response to Anadarko’s fail in Taranaki got a chuckle from me:
Anadarko’s announced it’s plugging and abandoning its well in the Taranaki basin after it was found there wasn’t enough oil.
This made Mr Harawira happy, who said, “Ka kite Anadarko and the rest of you. Take the message – take a hike”.
Image tweeted by Metiria Turei – her view of the hikoi this morning:
Julie Anne Genter’s tweeted image from the hikoi:
Tomorrow I will be looking to honour the legacy of Waitangi Day, and reflect on its meaning: I will be looking beyond the MSM coverage and to the reality of daily lives for Māori, the inequalities that continue to exist, and how that differs from the myths that just keep on being circulated.
I had a great day at Waitangi last year. It was like a carnival. I was welcomed wherever I went. Maori were cooking and selling food, culture and craft was on display, and it’s set in a truly beautiful part of the world. It is emotive and yet there is a lightness to it too. I loved it.
So as I watch the way Waitangi is reported in the mainstream media this year, I am again frustrated. The media is selling the public short and it should be mindful of the role it plays in race relations in this country.