Opinion: Hey coloniser, you want to lead the debate on indigenous rights?

Ngatti Whatua Orakei leads a peaceful hikoi to the Tamaki Makaurau (Auckland) High Court on the...
Ngatti Whatua Orakei leads a peaceful hikoi to the Tamaki Makaurau (Auckland) High Court on the opening day of its cross claims proceedings against the Crown in February. Photo: Brett Phibbs
OPINION: Hey coloniser, so let me get this right, you want to lead a debate about indigenous rights that you helped to destroy?

You dishonour Te Tiriti and promote continuing to do so. You stole our land and our language. You denounce our history, preferring to educate on anything but us. And you have done nothing to reverse this, instead preferring to ignore the problems.

We are in an inherently white system that you designed, yet you feel oppressed that Māori want to stop the pain of inequities. Your systemic racism continues to perpetuate inter-generational trauma, which you refuse to accept.

National's leader Judith Collins says that New Zealanders find racism abhorrent but in my opinion she is igniting racism through a carefully deployed campaign - apparently with the help of former leader Don Brash.

National Party leader Judith Collins. Photo: George Novak
National Party leader Judith Collins. Photo: George Novak
She states New Zealanders are entitled to a conversation about radical change, but isn't counteracting with alternative solutions, preferring to platform on what I see as the misery of struggling Māori whānau.

Former New Plymouth Mayor and self-proclaimed "recovering racist" Andrew Judd says he took on a journey which required he be honest and brutal with himself, challenging why he reacted strongly to anything Māori: te reo, our whakapapa, our history. He found his ignorance and racism was fuelled by fear. A fear we have seen that enrages racists as indigenous peoples push back at those refusing to lift the domination of one culture (belief system) over another. Refusing to address their attitudes of white privilege.

As Professor Richard Shaw says, white privilege is able to rise because of Pākehā disconnection to history. An example is the hypocrisy of some placards in the farmers' protest saying "stop the land grab". They don't get that Māori have been saying this for 181 years. And that Māori inequities are a direct result of colonisation.

So let's demand a debate about the coloniser's entitlements. And rather than start on a timeline plucked out to help lift right-wing leaders' dying polls, let's start at the beginning: 181 years ago, and discuss the rights of tangata whenua and the radical change needed in Aotearoa to see those rights fulfilled.

And yes, I hear you. Why should you pay for your ancestors' mistakes? But why should we, either? No one can give our language, lives, and land (actually this is possible) back. There is no true price for our tāonga. But we must at least stop the lying and stop making a mockery of tangata whenua with this pathetic dog-whistling.

So let's demand a debate on how this nation's economy has been built off the displacement of tangata whenua. How tangata whenua are the largest benefactors to this nation, having accepted settlements worth 1 per cent loss of whenua stolen, in a process determined by the Crown!

I'm all for highlighting that the reo rammed down some people's throat is the indigenous official language of Aotearoa. Let's talk about the $1.9m funding for Te Matatini, the largest kapa haka event on the planet, versus $16.9m for the NZ Symphony Orchestra. How about the $250m spent on the America's Cup this year? As John Tamihere put it: "can you imagine a waka ama festival losing millions of dollars as America's Cup funding did?"

And as we discuss crackdowns needed to stop crime, let's turn our gaze to white-collar crime, which has seen an estimated $2 billion to $4 billion loss to Aotearoa, through tax avoidance and evasion. Let's establish a task force focused on policing the illegal trade of the rich and greedy. Let's profile the white privileged who go under the radar because they look like Sir Ron Brierly, knighted but involved in disgusting child pornography. But we won't see white politicians leading that debate because it doesn't feed the racists' hysteria as good as anti-Māori debates do.

I'm all for highlighting that the coloniser's demand for debate is not about our indigenous rights, about gangs, beneficiaries, or health entities. In my opinion, it's a relentless campaign against Māori and cruel low-level race debate that we can see for what it is – the liferaft of a failing leader.

My concluding argument would be, despite obvious obstacles of colonisation we have great solutions for ourselves, and very much want to drive our own tino rangatiratanga (self-determination). We don't need to be led into that indigenous discussion by non-indigenous peoples. What we need is for the colonisers to decolonise themselves, and as Andrew Judd said, that's a Pākehā-to-Pākehā discussion.

There is indeed a cancel movement: the cancelling out of colonisation and its revolting injustices that create trauma still today. We are not one. Tangata whenua have our role and place alongside tangata tiriti. We know our culture, our whakapapa, our history. We are tangata whenua and the sooner the colonisers accept that the sooner Aotearoa will grow up.

• Debbie Ngarewa-Packer is co-leader of the Māori Party.

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