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AOTEAROA

A piece to mark all Waitangi days

Written by Millie Burton



"it is important that we commemorate Waitangi Day with an understanding of the complexities of the past, and approach the event with a more nuanced understanding of its context, intentions, and outcomes.

i believe we should enter into discussion about Waitangi Day with the same intention and goodwill that Māori had when signing the Treaty itself"



Te Tiriti o Waitangi | the Treaty of Waitangi is Aotearoa New Zealand’s founding document, and was initially signed on 6 February 1840 by 40 chiefs at Waitangi, and gained roughly 500 signatures from around New Zealand by the end of 1840.

The Treaty has a complicated past and has been inconsistently applied, often within a negative, colonial agenda.


Sir Hugh Kawharu wrote about the Māori interpretation of the text, suggesting that Māori understood that they were ceding to the Crown their ‘kāwanatanga’ (which was translated to ‘government’ in the English version of the Treaty), while retaining their ‘rangatiratanga’, which was understood as the unqualified exercise of chieftainship over their own customs (or sovereignty).


Kawharu argues that Māori would not have interpreted kāwanatanga as government in the sense of sovereignty. Therefore, the Māori text of the Treaty had significant differences to the English version and the effects of the mistranslation reverberate to this day.


It is therefore important that we commemorate Waitangi Day with an understanding of the complexities of the past, and approach the event with a more nuanced understanding of its context, intentions, and outcomes.


I believe we should enter into discussions about Waitangi Day with the same intention and goodwill that Māori had when signing the Treaty itself. For that reason, I’ve grounded my programmes for Waitangi Day in the three-Ps framework of partnership, protection, and participation.


This framework comes from what Waitangi Day means to me, which is to honour the Treaty through connection to one another, engaging with mātauranga Māori, and reflecting on how I can uphold the Treaty in my everyday life. It ensures that the Waitangi Day programmes have a focus on reflection and the celebration of whānau and community.


The way we mark Waitangi Day will consistently evolve and adapt to reflect the current state of the nation. While it is a holiday, I encourage you to use your day off to reflect on the Treaty, your place here in Aotearoa, and what it means to be a New Zealander.


We can also ask ourselves how we can honour the principles of the Treaty and the commitment made in 1840. Even though the outcomes of the Treaty and its ongoing legacies have often been to the detriment of Māori, we can engage with the Treaty critically to understand ourselves as a nation.


This piece was republished with Millie's Permission


Millie Burton (Ngati Kahungunu) is a Public Programming specialist at te-papa





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