Treaty gala leaves Maoris and whites worlds apart
Wednesday 07 February 1996
New Zealand's Waitangi Day, which marks the founding treaty between the Crown and the Maori people, ended last year in a welter of insults and saliva, with the Governor-General spat upon, the flag trampled, the diplomatic corps upbraided, while the nation's top Maori civil servant engaged in hand-to-hand combat with a leading Maori nationalist.
Yesterday's celebration - keenly awaited in a country which now looks to race relations for its main source of political excitement - was almost as dramatic. But this time it was theatre of sublime disengagement.
The official ceremony was held behind locked gates in the garden of Government House in Wellington, with only a handful of arrests being made outside the fence. At Waitangi itself, where the treaty was signed in 1840, a mostly Maori gathering was convened. Violence flared briefly when hundreds of Maori activists were stopped by police from crossing a bridge leading to the site of the signing. About 50 were reported to have swum across the river and there were three arrests.
It is difficult to think of a parallel elsewhere in the world where a solemn covenant is commemorated by both parties at different ends of the country because of bad feeling between the signatories. But there has always been something odd about New Zealand's attachment to a treaty that was broken as soon and as thoroughly as possible, with the Crown making war on, and seizing millions of acres from, a people it had pledged to treat as British subjects.
The immediate cause for violent Maori protest in recent years has been the government's attempts - seen as niggardly and patronising - to make reparations for the land seizures. But a deeper problem has emerged. In the Maori text of the 1840 document, Britain promised to protect Maori political sovereignty. But the English textpledged far less. In effect, two incompatible treaties were signed on 6 February, 1840. The land grievances may be solved in time: the sovereignty issue is much thornier.
The sight of marquees on a windy lawn in Wellington, while nationalist flags flew in the far north showed how far political thinking of Maori and Pakeha (Europeans) have diverged at a social level as well. The races seem set to remain apart. On Wellington's docks yesterday, a solidly white queue snaked towards a replica of Captain Cook's bark Endeavour, which is visiting the country. Nearby, a mostly Maori crowd (many of whom regard the Endeavour's arrival in 1769 as the beginning of their woes) spent their public holiday at a concert, drawn there by Maori bands including the rap group Upper Hutt Posse. Sample lyrics: "Fuck New Zealand, ya call me a Kiwi, Aotearoa is the name of the country."
Meanwhile in Auckland, New Zealand's largest city, the only victim of violence turned out to be a tree, a landmark on the summit of one of the city's volcanic cones. This otherwise blameless Scots pine has come in Maori minds to represent "the wairua [spirit] of colonialism" since it was planted to replace a native Totara pine cut down by drunken British sailors at the turn of the century. Early yesterday, a Maori armed with a spear was intercepted by security men near the tree. He told them he was a medicine man, thrust the spear into the tree trunk, then ran off into the dark. His whereabouts, like the future of race relations in New Zealand, is unknown.
- 1 Keira Knightley topless: Conservative actress does own take on #Freethenipple campaign for Interview Magazine
- 2 Argentina may change its capital city from Buenos Aires, says president
- 3 Joan Rivers: 'Palestinians deserve to be dead'
- 4 The 3D-printed key that can unlock anything
- 5 Lady al-Qa’ida: On the trail of Dr Aafia Siddiqui, the world’s most wanted prisoner
Keira Knightley topless: Conservative actress does own take on #Freethenipple campaign for Interview Magazine
YouTube video posted by Isis militants shows 'execution of 250 Syrian soldiers'
Oil tanker with $100 million cargo goes missing off Texas coast
Joan Rivers: 'Palestinians deserve to be dead'
Sir Paul McCartney makes his stance on Scottish independence known
Robin Williams Emmys tribute led by Billy Crystal criticised for including 'racist' joke about Muslim woman
The Rotherham child abuse scandal is a tale of apologists, misogyny and double standards
What do immigrants really think of Britain? Polish immigrant's Reddit post goes viral
Scottish independence TV debate: Pumped-up Alex Salmond bounces back in bruising second round against Alistair Darling
Do you realise just how foolish the UK looks?
With Douglas Carswell joining Ukip, my party has taken another giant step forward
- < Previous
- Next >
£30000 - £33000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Junior SQL DBA...
£35000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Web Develop...
£60000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Senior Data Sc...
Highly Attractive Salary: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - This is a very unusual law c...