September 9, 2017
Our first free day in Wellington consisted of rest and time exploring the city! The day before, we visited the famous Te Papa museum and got a special “back of the house“ tour of their “Mana Whenua” exhibit, which loosely translates to “authority of the land.” The Mana Whenua exhibit was one of many in the expansive museum, so we decided to come back the next day and explore the rest, especially since it’s free! One place we hadn’t checked out was the Gallipoli exhibition. Gallipoli was a battle during World War I where New Zealand helped other Allied forces invade the Gallipoli peninsula in Turkey. Sadly, the campaign ended with over 2,500 casualties on the New Zealand side. Despite the tragedy, the Gallipoli battle was very important as not only one of New Zealand’s first major steps in cultivating a sense of national identity, but also as the first battle where Māori and pākehā, or foreign settlers, fought together. In the exhibit, there was a large section detailing Māori involvement in the battle through The Māori Contingent, an all Māori battalion, which landed in Gallipoli in July of 1915. The display described how important Māori involvement was in the battle, earning them the respect and admiration of British and pākehā troops. But it also stated that many have overlooked their involvement historically. Seeing this reminded me of the fact that many modern treaty settlement claims being assessed by the Waitangi Tribunal are related to the health issues of Māori veterans involved in World War I and the Vietnam War. For context, the Waitangi Tribunal is a group of people tasked with hearing Māori claims of Treaty of Waitangi violations by European settlers. Part of the treaty claimed that Māori would gain the same rights and liberties as British citizens. However, after coming home from war many Māori soldiers were not given the same treatment as the pākehā veterans. Today, the grievances of Māori veterans, especially relating to PTSD, are finally being heard and settlements are being advocated for by the Waitangi Tribunal. Learning about the Tribunals current efforts and seeing the Māori Contingent soldiers receive recognition in the Gallipoli exhibit has made me hopeful that Māori veterans will be rightfully compensated for their service in the near the future.