Treaty gala leaves Maoris and whites worlds apart

PETER WALKER

Wellington

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.

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
News
people Emma Watson addresses celebrity nude photo leak
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
fashionModel of the moment shoots for first time with catwalk veteran
Sport
Alexis Sanchez, Radamel Falcao, Diego Costa and Mario Balotelli
footballRadamel Falcao and Diego Costa head record £835m influx
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Arts and Entertainment
Danish director Lars von Trier
filmEnglish-language series with 'huge' international cast set for 2016
Life and Style
tech
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Junior Software Developer - Newcastle, Tyne & Wear - £30,000

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Junior Web Developer / J...

Systems Administrator (SharePoint) - Central London - £36,500

£35000 - £36500 per annum: Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator (SharePoint) -...

Biology Teacher

£90 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: We are currently recruiting...

.NET Developer / Web Developer / Software Developer - £37,000

£30000 - £37000 per annum + attractive benefits: Ashdown Group: .NET Developer...

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering