This post is part of the 100 Days project
Today I was given the opportunity to understand more about colonisation, racism and New Zealand's founding document. A work colleague was unable to attend a workshop on the Treaty of Waitangi so I decided at the last minute to attend, if only because I think the Treaty is important and there's always more to learn. I expected something pretty dry on Articles 1 and 2 but what happened was a glorious exploration of attitudes and perception, the pre-Treaty context, the reasons why the Treaty was created, what it actually says (just one small part of the workshop), what the colonising implications have been and what this means today.
A quick summary of some things I didn't know (in no particular order):
The Maori seats were created to limit Maori representation in parliament, not ensure it.
The British government recognised the sovereignty of Maori prior to the Treaty, by formally acknowledging the Declaration of Independence in 1836.
A treaty is a contract between sovereign powers. In this case between the British crown and hapu in Aotearoa, NOT iwi.
Not all hapu signed the Treaty. One of them consequently has its own passport. This allows members out of New Zealand but not back in.
Because Maori were granted British citizenship under the Treaty, some Maori today are petitioning for British passports.
Hobson had syphilis and was taking mercury as a treatment during the drafting and signing of the Treaty.
Settlements under the Waitangi tribunal have addressed about 1% of what was taken from each hapu.
Most of the land confiscated from Maori was in contravention of Article 2, part 2 and not something which was enabled by the Treaty.
I did know this but it's worth including - the government we have today would not be in existence except for the Treaty, which allowed for a British government to be set up.
Europeans in New Zealand prior to the signing of the Treaty were from many different countries, not just Britain.
None of the colonial powers were particularly interested in colonising New Zealand because it was small and not really of interest, but Britiain eventually stepped in because the New Zealand Company was selling land it didn't own and had brought over two boatloads of settlers.
Despite its flaws and the serious and ongoing impact of colonialism on Maori that is a direct result of the Treaty, there is a lot of evidence to suggest that it was entered into with the best of intentions on both sides. Which maybe gives us a reason to keep working with it.