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Observations from Waitangi Day

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on 08/02/2016 by molliemoogle

That time of year has rolled around again: Waitangi Day (well, it was actually 2 days ago).  The national holiday of New Zealand when the Treaty of Waitangi was signed giving the British sovereignty over New Zealand.  There’s been a lot of debate over the treaty in recent years, mainly over who owns what, and the meanings of several words, as they mean totally different things in Maori and in English.

In the simplest terms (in my opinion anyway), it’s like calling a lion a “cat”; kind of, but not really.  There’s a huge difference between a cat and a lion.  “Property” in English is sort of like “taonga” in Maori, but there’s still a big difference in what actually encompasses “property” vs “taonga”.

I’d like to think that Queen Victoria was a bit progressive and, living in the age that she did (one of strict codes of conduct), wanted to do right by the Maori.  Unfortunately, the language barriers and literacy barriers (Maori is an oral language, not a written one) came together to produce a perfect storm of miscommunication (to put it mildly).

How do I feel about the holiday?  I’m in two minds.  Let me explain.

I’m an American by birth, so our national holiday, July 4, is filled to the brim with what can only be described as rabid patriotism.  Large red, white, and blue explosions happen all over the country; patriotic songs about America being the land of the free, the home of the brave, and the cradle of opportunity and dreams.  It’s the bestest ever place in the whole wide world.  Fireworks light up the skies.  Veterans and active service members are practically mobbed in the streets and treated like rock stars.  If the Earth is an oyster, America and her opportunities are the pearl.  BBQs, picnics, free concerts, people shouting “God Bless America!” at every opportunity.  It’s freaky in a good and a weird sense.

America also screwed over a number of Indigenous American tribes before, during, and after the divine mandate of Manifest Destiny.  Trail of Tears and the Indian Removal Act.  Diseases from Europe.  Policies of discrimination.  Removal of culture and land.  The Phips Proclamation in 1775.  American committed cultural genocide.

It’s kind of the same here, except without the rabid patriotism.  Let me say this: it’s awesome being a Kiwi.  We have amazing sports teams (the All Blacks for starters), we’re nuclear-free, there’s a beach within 120km of anywhere, Pineapple Lumps, Jelly-Tips, no crocs or poisonous anything, beautiful scenery, and a can-do No 8 wire mentality.  The Treaty established a British colony in New Zealand which allowed the Kiwi lifestyle to flourish, but at the same time, misinterpretation and miscommunication has caused a number of protests over the years saying that the British/the Crown has screwed over the Maori.

Here’s why I’m in two minds about celebrating any kind of national holiday:

1- I’m proud of my heritage as a Kiwi (I don’t self-identify as an American).

2- But, I can’t forget who and what that heritage is built on.