Tag Archives: sovereignty

Parliament and Politics

September 8, 2017

Today Meka Whaitiri, a member in the Labour Party, warmly greeted us and gave us a tour of the Parliament. She met us in the Māori Affairs Committee Room, which is located in the main Parliament building. The room served a similar function as a Marae, and the interior was similar to a Marae as well; instead of poupou (carvings on wood panels inside the meeting house of a Marae that usually have connections to ancestral lineage), there were portraits of previous Māori politicians. We were greeted in a fashion similar to a pōwhiri (a welcome protocol): exchanging a speech and a song, followed by the hongi. I found the resemblance to a Marae protocol to be significant in regards to not only paying respect to Māori ancestors and culture, but also to empowering Māori people who are involved in politics and represent their iwi (tribe).

The Parliament buildings (the Beehive on the left, and the main building on the right)

During the tour, we were taken to the court room where new laws are passed. The room had the names of countries that New Zealand had fought in war with. Following the tour, we had morning tea with Meka and discussed more about the Parliament. It stood out to me when Meka told us that there are some Māori members of parliament (MPs) who acknowledge their Māori whakapapa (genealogy) only when it is convenient or beneficial. In doing this, the genuine motive to represent Māori interests becomes illegitimate as well as the intention to represent the whakapapa that these MPs now conveniently claim to relate to. I found it disheartening that considering how proportionally little Māori there are in parliament, these Māori MP choose to represent certain sides or issues and turn to their whakapapa almost as a last resort. With whakapapa being a significantly large part of Māori culture, relating to their genealogy when convenient seems to undermine the roots of the culture and heritage they claim to have.

We had visited The Waitangi Tribunal two days before visitign the Parliament. The Waitangi Tribunal (a government entity) looks into past and present breaches from the Crown to the Treaty of Waitangi. The members at the Waitangi Tribunal are mostly all of Māori descent. After putting in immense time and effort of looking into claims, the Tribunal produces a written report that underlines Crown breaches and highlights recommendations regarding the claims. Despite that these reports are only recommendations and are not binding results, the members are extremely dedicated to the work they are doing. They were doing work that, although would not give affected Māori peoples any compensation for the hardship caused by breaches to the Treaty, they believed would make a difference. In comparison to the certain Māori MPs that only use their Māori genealogy to benefit themselves in politics, these Māori members at the Tribunal strongly held onto their whakapapa and used that as motivation.

These visits made me reflect on how Māori sovereignty in politics can become distorted due to how power is allocated to different political and government entities. The interests of MPs often do not benefit the whole, and can lead to malpractice. On the other hand, the system of politics sheds little light onto the Māori peoples (or groups like the Waitangi Tribunal), and this creates an environment where genuine interests are not prioritized.

— Eunice

The Journey of Sovereignty

September 8, 2017

The New Zealand Parliament Building

Today we were given a tour of parliament by Māori member of parliament Meka Whaitiri. Our tour began by entering a whare-like room, with walls adorned by wood carvings and portraits of past, historically significant Māori parliament members. We were welcomed by a traditional pōwhiri, or protocol, exchanging a song between our class and Meka. Following the welcome ceremony, we toured the speaking chambers from both past and present, ending our visit in the Māori committee chamber. We sat around the table asking Meka a variety of questions, eventually ending our afternoon over tea.

Original copy of Treaty of Waitangi

Overall, our last few days in Wellington have completely unhinged all of the preconceived beliefs I held about the state of existence for the Indigenous peoples of Aotearoa. I came into this study of Māori peoples with a skewed perception that in terms of Indigenous rights, Māori were so much better off than the natives from my home country. With both the Waitangi Tribunal, a governmental entity dedicated to looking into both contemporary and historical breeches of the Treaty of Waitangi on the part of the Crown, and the illusion of fast-pace progress in the settlement processes, it would seem that while there is still so much work to be done, Māori are far advanced in their pursuit for sovereignty in comparison to Native Americans. I tread carefully, because I don’t want to give off the impression that there has been no progression at all. Time and time again I’ve been left awe-struck by the resiliency of Aotearoa’s first peoples, and their unwavering commitment to their own autonomy. I’ve been so humbled in witnessing cultural performances, speeches delivered completely in Te Reo, and the historic strength of the people.

Yet, in examining the detailed processes of how Māori must fight for sovereignty, it becomes so clear how easy it is to get caught up in a false idea that the New Zealand is edging towards a world “post” colonization. That they, unlike America, have successfully begun to amend the sins committed during colonialism. However, in understanding colonization as a process, rather than an event, it is evident that we will never truthfully live in a world rid of colonization. For this reason, it is imperative not to allow ourselves to get caught up in the idea that we’ve made strides immense enough to rectify the scars colonization has left on indigenous populations. As stated in Patricia Grace’s Potiki, “[As Indigenous peoples], we haven’t come a long way at all…  we’ve been all left out of it in the end. We’ve helped build a country… Worked in the factories, helped build the roads, helped educate its kids… We’ve committed our crimes, done our good deeds, sat in Parliament, got educated, sung our hymns, scored our ties, fought in wars, splashed our money about…”, and yet despite all of this, Indigenous peoples must continue to struggle every day to receive the rights entitled to them for centuries (93-94).

In this way, while the tour left me feeling both encouraged and frustrated, I think it revealed for me the heart of what it means to be indigenous in all parts of the world. To be indigenous is to be limited. It is being allowed an illusion of sovereignty at the cost of your autonomy not only as an individual, but as a tribe. However, it is also challenging this notion every day. It is not only seeing your limitations, but also the paths you’ll take to overcome them. Even more, in light of this, it is my hope that the Waitangi Tribunal never reaches an end. Not only because it is instrumental in dealing with contemporary breeches on the part of the crown, but also because there is no end point. Sovereignty is not a destination, but a journey. In operating under the false pretense that we’ve been ushered into an era post-colonization, we fall victim to seeing Indigenous peoples, such as the Māori, as monolithic, trapped by the notion that there is no growth left to be had. The fact of the matter is colonization will never cease to perverse our mindset, and in order for indigenous populations to continue their journeys towards sovereignty, they must be allowed the capacity and space to evolve.

— Danni

The Te Taiwhakaea: Treaty Settlement Stories project

Wednesday, September 6, 2017


Kia ora!

We came back from Matiu/Somes Island early this afternoon. After settling back into our hostels at the Dwellington, we had the privilege of meeting Leanne Tamaki with the Treaty Settlements Stories project.

The Te Taiwhakaea: Treaty Settlement Stories is a project developed by Manatu Taonga, the Ministry for Culture and Heritage. The ministry identified this project to be important and historically significant. This project “will produce a comprehensive account of recent history of Treaty of Waitangi settlements from all perspectives.”

(From left to right) Treaty Settlement Story Team Members Anaru Dalziel, Hine Parata-Walker, Leanne Tamaki, and Lynette Townshend

Their plan is to collaborate with leading historians, other Ministries, research institutions, and universities to bring forth the stories of iwi and hapu (maori people and family). The project aims to produce multimedia and multiplatform publications accessible to the mass population that will amplify the unheard voices and silenced stories of Maori people in regards to the treaty settlement. One of the slides that Leanne shared with us was a statement from former Prime Minister “…we absolutely must teach an honest history of the settlement period… that’s the only way you can get acceptance of what still has to be done to correct some of those errors in the past.” One of the objectives of this project is to better inform the Maori people about the treaty – Maori people know a little about the treaty but don’t completely understand what exactly happened or the details of it. The content of this project can be used in public education and contribute to a better informed and understanding New Zealand public. The tragedy for New Zealand was not only having their land unfairly confiscated but also that they had no idea.


I found this project empowering and of vital importance to the people of New Zealand – it is absolutely necessary for them to recognize the errors of their history and hear the voices of Maori people in regard to the treaty settlement. I wasn’t surprised to learn that a project like this was rising – this is a land of resilient indigenous people. The objectives of the Te Taiwhakaea: Treaty Settlement Stories project intersects with our course’s themes of sovereignty and representation – it creates space where the team can produce and control content that will project the voices and stories of from all perspectives, educate their youth of their true history, and distribute information that will reach the mass population. With this project, they are able to represent all voices of their people that were unheard.

Te Taiwhakaea Treaty Settlement Stories Project team with UW class!

– Aleila Alefaio


Sheep and Settler Colonialism

September 2, 2017

Today, we took the scenic route to Wellington aboard the Northern Express for a ten-hour train ride. We traveled through tunnels, in the shadow of a mountain, and beside small industrial towns; all the while, we ate, listened to music, talked, and most importantly, slept. The lengthy trip was used for rest, bonding, and reflection as we looked onto Aotearoa’s beautiful countryside.

A reoccurring feature of this landscape was the green grass used as pastures for grazing cows and sheep. Animal agriculture was so prominent throughout the ride that I was able to comprehend how vastly outnumbered humans are by sheep: 29.5 million to 4.6 million. It began to strike me as odd, how have these non-indigenous animals become such a staple in the country’s geography? Unfortunately, the answer to that question is quite layered involving both the Treaty of Waitangi and Western ideology.

Cows on a pasture next to the railroad tracks

Throughout this trip, we have learned the effects of having two separate founding national documents; the Māori’s version of the Treaty is a completely separate piece of work when compared to the British version, ultimately causing disparities which left the nation, specifically the Māori peoples, with intergenerational traumas. As the country grew off of the British version of the Treaty, the Pākehā’s (non-Māori) needs and values were cemented into the nation’s identity. The Māori peoples became marginalized as the partnership outlined in their version of the Treaty was not upheld. Due to this structure, the Crown was able to “buy” Aotearoa’s lands and level them in order to make space for agrarian traditions and the Pākehā.

The polarity between the grazing fields and natural, thick forests is stark and highlights the settler colonialism—immigrating to embody the space and spatial interaction of a location while imposing a foreign culture—etched into the environment. However, since Aotearoa and its entities were not empty, the Māori were left without the rights detailed in their Treaty. I was reminded of the Māori’s fight for sovereignty as I looked out onto lands that were mostly taken with unjust methods such as confiscation or purchasing land for less than it’s worth.

However, despite the seemingly negative situation, the Māori people have continued to adapt to their circumstances in order to persevere and thrive.  For example, Māori peoples have adopted animal agriculture to take part in this lucrative business. This idea of adaption was discussed while in Auckland at the Tikanga Rangahau Wananga conference we attended. We were able to hear from Professor Linda Tuhiwai Smith, a Māori scholar. She gave us a unique experience by giving her lecture through stories. This technique is quite reflective of the culture because “Skills such as weaving and carving, along with a rich tradition of song, dance, whakapapa, tribal histories and creation stories, were passed on through the generations” (6487).  In doing so, she personified her culture’s practices as she spoke of resistance and remaining firm in their identity. One story in particular stuck out in a poem-like tale called “You Can’t Erase Me” that retold a conversation between herself and another scholar. The exchange ended as her colleague stated, “You are here because of race, I’m here because of merit.” Her response silenced the audience and reaffirmed the intensity of Māori determination and unwillingness to be disregarded by settler colonialism: “No, you’re here because of race, I’m here because you can’t erase me.”