Imperative to recognise the inequity created by colonisation

 

The Maori Tino Rangatiratanga flag flutters above Te Tii Reserve at Paihia as Waitangi Day...
Photo: ODT files.

Is the colonisation narrative dangerous for New Zealand, as an opinion article last week  by Philip Temple suggests?  Kim Cope Tait disagrees.

Kia ora koutou katoa. I must start with an admission: I am not Maori, or even a New Zealand Pakeha. I am the partner of a Ngati Porou-Scottish man and am mostly just grateful that I have been received in Aotearoa during such a turbulent time for the world. Of mixed ancestry myself, I too carry the blood of the colonised, along with that of the coloniser. Though it may sound harsh to say it like that, there is no avoiding the truth of it. And honestly, language does matter.

Colonisation is a fact. And it doesn’t only refer to the moment of contact between a colonising entity and the indigenous population. There is no "sweet spot" in that process, because it is an ongoing phenomenon. The "colonisation narrative" refers to a much larger sort of matrix that undeniably permeates the entire structure of society and is derived from a history of colonising acts . . . ones that typically attempt to mute, if not eradicate, the indigenous population because it seems to threaten the expansion of the colonising population’s objectives.

It refers to continuously introduced legislation with euphemistic names like the Maori Representation Act (1867), the Maori Affairs Act (1953) and the Treaty of Waitangi (Removal of Conflict of Interest) Amendment Bill (2007). All of this legislation has effectively diminished Maori autonomy and freedom to own and manage their land the way they choose, as well as limited the Maori voice in New Zealand government. In the space of time between 1840 and 1975, Maori-owned land was reduced from 26,870,000 hectares to a mere 1,200,000.

People don’t know about these things. It’s not their fault. The current effort of the Ministry of Education to revamp the national history curriculum in public schools is a reflection of their acknowledgement that denying such truths of one’s history is (at best) undesirable. It represents an effort to make reparation for the ways that such omissions have, not necessarily intentionally, imposed and reinforced barriers to Maori progress. The call for decolonisation then is not, as this dismissive article says, "a lazy way of throwing rocks at Pakeha or ‘‘Western’’ culture" but rather an emphatic plea for the recognition of the inequity that exists as a result of a history of colonising acts.

The fact is that colonisation itself is dangerous, not the perpetuation of its narrative. Colonisation violates all parties, the members of the colonising culture included. Kudos to the New Zealand Ministry of Education for taking a step in the direction of addressing these omissions with a revised history curriculum. Again, the effort itself supports the argument that colonisation is an issue that exists and must be examined. Not reacted to in a violent way (as in the perhaps misguided efforts of the single Maori activist group that in their desperation burned down the Rangiatea Church at Otaki 26 years ago) but addressed in a way that offers a corrective experience in shaping not just the view of the Maori people but of their relationship to the tauiwi.

The word tauiwi is used to distinguish the group of New Zealand tangata who do not come from and have never identified with a Maori tribe. I do believe one would be hard-pressed to find anyone of European descent who identifies with their own tribe, so far removed are they from the period of their tribal existence. But if one did, I do believe every Maori I know would be interested and happy to acknowledge that tribe. Tribal affiliation is at the heart of whanaungatanga. I have seen this in the interest and respect paid to me and my own First Nations affiliation.

To appeal to the readers of the ODT with the fact that "Pakeha have whakapapa too" is almost akin to responding to the rally cry that "Black Lives Matter" with the statement that "All Lives Matter." They do. It’s true. But all lives are not under fire. All lives are not being violated and brutalised by the police force in the United States. Black lives are. The statement that "Black Lives Matter" does not preclude the "mattering" of other lives. And to say that Maori lives, Maori concerns, must be honoured (say when we look at the statistics around the disproportionate number of Maori and Pacific Islander inmates in New Zealand prisons or the shockingly disproportionate number of Maori and Pacific Islander people living in poverty and losing their youth to suicide) is not to suggest that Pakeha lives and concerns shouldn’t. It just means that Maori concerns should not be ignored and swept into the shadow of the concerns of the over-culture, as they have been too often and for too long.

I must agree with Dr Temple when he states that: "We need to celebrate all our whakapapa, all of the values and cultures that form this special nation." Nothing could be truer. But this in no way negates the importance of acknowledging that colonisation has played, and continues to play, a huge role in shaping this nation, as it has so many nations around the globe. "Kaua e rangiruatia te ha o te hoe e kore to tatou waka e u ki uta." Indeed, "Do not lift the paddle out of unison or our waka will never reach the shore."

We just need to make sure that everyone’s got a paddle.

 - Kim Cope Tait is an educator of rangatahi in the youth justice system here in Otepoti. She keeps a blog at www.kimcopetait.com, and she has three published novels and a collection of poetry entitled Shadow Tongue.

Comments

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It is clearly of great importance that history is not distorted...
...BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s cyber regulator has launched a hotline to report online comments that defame the ruling Communist Party and its history, vowing to crack down on “historical nihilists” ahead of the Party’s 100th anniversary in July.

The tip line allows people to report fellow netizens who “distort” the Party’s history, attack its leadership and policies, defame national heroes and “deny the excellence of advanced socialist culture”

This comment makes a very good point in its opening statement.
The op-ed from Dr Temple in the ODT a few days ago is an excellent example of what happens when those with power and authority do everything they can to suppress truth and distort history.
Thank goodness we have one Govt Dept (Ministry of Education) at least who have taken the ODT editors advice to heart and are working hard to "give free and frank advice which does not try to divert attention from uncomfortable truths".

I found Ms Tait's opinion piece well balanced and insightful, all the more-so as she is not a NZer.
I am a NZ pakeha of primarily Scottish extraction. I have managed through my own efforts to learn our true history, the history that the Ministry of Education is thankfully now proposing to include in its revision of the curriculum.
Ms Tait has named a couple of pieces of legislation that diminished Maori autonomy but there are many more: The waste Land Act of 1867 and the Tohunga Suppression Act 1907 to name but a couple. As Ms Tait says there are many many more, all aimed at breaching the Treaty of Waitangi and suppressing Maori culture.
It is also important to note that each of these pieces of appalling legislation were strongly opposed by some MP's of the day who called them for what they truly were. One of the more prominent of these being Thomas Bracken, composer of our National Anthem. It should also be noted that those who did oppose these laws were castigated by the press of the day and had their political careers cut short.
Those who appear to fear the truth and prefer to hide their heads in the sand, like Dr Temple, do us no favours.

Just a casual look at a few agencies that promote and support Maori Health, Culture and Education in NZ today would have to include: Te Taura Whiri I Te Reo Māori (Māori Language Commission), Maori Education Trust, Toi Maori- Maori Arts NZ, Awhina Wahine - Maori Woman’s welfare, Te Mangai Paho -Maori broadcasting funding agency, Mātauranga Māori Marae Ora Fund, Taonga conservation wānanga programme, Maori Woman’s welfare league, Tuwharetoa Ki Kawerau Health Education & Social Services, MUMA-Manukau Urban Maori Authority, Maori Housing Support-Te Puni Kōkiri, plus hundreds more too numerous to include here, many offering grants, funding and training for business, employment, education, mental health and community initiatives specifically for Maori. With all this support it would seem Maori are in an enviable position to prosper and succeed. Not all are burdened by Colonization or allowing the past to hold them back from archiving greatness. I’m more interested in how contemporary Maori are embracing opportunities and succeeding in NZ today. As it would seem there is no shortage of encouragement for them to do so, with support from govt, private & community initiatives.

What a negative attitude towards the many great advantages joining the rest of the world brought to New Zealand. Yes, there have been some downsides to any 'colonised' people; it's hard to think of a culture that hasn't undergone the same fate, often with much worse consequences. As far as I can tell Maori can freely vote, access education and health care and the workforce. All things that would not have existed without the arrival of Europeans.
The worry for the future is that the education system will be like the Chinese system noted by Pat. NZ children are already being brainwashed into losing their own identity and will be taught a sanitised version of reality, i.e. colonialists bad, first peoples good! only a Maori perspective will be acceptable; forget about the inter-tribal wars already in play when Europeans arrived, they can be edited out.
What we really need to do is get children to explore their own ancestry, and yes, my own tribe would be Brigantes, but we have come a long way over the past few thousand years, even though we were colonised a few times. In hindsight, it worked out well.

"Brainwashing" is psychological wiping and replacement. Are there venal operatives in schools? Don't disparage the young, they know their own minds, which are not elderly.

" even though we were colonised a few times. In hindsight, it worked out well. "
Oh yeah ! . . What did the Romans ever do for you !! ;-) ;-)
Or the Northmen ( Vikings ) or the Saxtons ( French ), blood baths every time.
Brits should be seeking compensation from Norway. They have lots of oil money they invested well ( much better than the UK with the Nth Sea oil ) so they could spare a billion or two.
How about sending a bill to Germany for WWI & II and the French for Napoleon's folly?
No point in going the Spanish cause they lost their fleet and besides, Briton pinched the gold they pinched from Sth Americas, not that were doing anything useful with it.
Sir Francis Drake didn't get his Knighthood for being a nice guy to the Spanish.
And what did the Sth Americas ever do for the world apart from providing potatoes, tomatoes, chilli peppers and cocaine ?
Corn came from Nth Americas. Maybe the world should pay them all a 'royalty' for these staple foods as they have been great for our health.
I'm with the Kim. We should keep dredging up the past until all old scores are settled, to show how 'nice' us humans can be, if we try hard. I'm sure it will end well

The "Saxtons"? King Harold sliced them up a treat. Then, defeated by the Normans, at Battle, Sussex.

History was told by the victors. Not any more. General Cameron, of the Waikato campaign, withdrew the Redcoats, dismayed by NZ settler rapacity. Nor did colonial government intervene to end slavery on the Chatham Islands by North Island Maori.

Colonisation benefits the coloniser. At least let iwi have Maori healthcare professionals.

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