Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Election season and Treaty of Waitangi

Election less than three weeks away. Signs are everywhere and I can tell where the social-economic and racial differences seem to be. Up north I saw more often the signs of the Maori Party and the Mana Party, and riding back into town it's all National, Labor, Conservative and Greens. National and Conservative signs are where the big farms and rich people live and I've seen Labor and Greens posted throughout the countryside in smaller numbers.

I've always had interest in self-determination of indigenous people since living and working in Alaska. The Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act ANCSA) paved the way for the construction of the Alaska pipeline by creating corporate structure of governance for indigenous people. The Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) made provisions for establishment of national parks and preserves by compromising rural preference now to protect subsistence uses. The writers of ANILCA knew that it would never pass if they gave Native preference.

So, now I'm touring around New Zealand and I can't seem to avoid the political landscape, especially the tension(s) with land claims and treaty rights.

Here in New Zealand, the people have the Treaty of Waitangi guiding the Māori and the Crown government, however it seems to me that the Māori and the Crown (and most Pākehā) definitely have different interpretations of the Treaty. (Limited natural resources would do that, particularly when survival is at stake...) Pākehā is one of the first words I learned in Māori, it describes a New Zealander of European descent. I'm told it isn't an offensive word.

I watched a tv debate several nights ago on Māori Television that highlighted some issues that probably most tourists never even become aware of.

Apparently it was a huge fight between the television people and the Crown for New Zealand to gain this national TV station, but that's another long story. Anyhoo, they were talking about the return of the Te Urewera National Park to the Tūhoe and I knew absolutely nothing about it. So I needed to get more understanding of at least one of the issues they were talking about.

A quick search on the internet ensued. What I found was a paper that is an excellent summary that I will share only some of here. Sue Able wrote a paper that she presented at a Traditional Knowledge Conference in 2010 that shares her interpretation of the issue and explains what the historical context is and how the media hinders understanding between the Māori and Pākehā (it's very academic but very interesting to read - the link follows).

The loss of the In 1896, the Urewera District Native Reserve Act created a 265,000 hectare reserve as an “inviolate protectorate” within Tūhoe. A council, Te Whitu Tekau, was to manage Tūhoe's affairs. The Crown soon undermined the legislation, imposing £7,000 costs on the iwi for title determination and buying up pieces of land to clear this supposed debt. The Crown, as the monopoly buyer, fixed low prices. Under the legislation this was illegal, but the Government passed a law in 1916 to retrospectively validate its actions. It also charged enormous survey costs and a special £20,000 fee towards building roads through Te Urewera, which were never built. In other words, Tūhoe were supposed to keep what was left of their land in 1896 as a self-governing reserve. However, it lost the land through a series of unjust and often illegal Government tactics over the next few decades.

Jump to 2010. Tūhoe have been in negotiations with the government over their Treaty claim for 2 years. They understood that the return of Te Urewera would be a part of the settlement, which was to be signed on June 14 in Waimana. Three days before this, John Key unilaterally pre-empted this with his public announcement, without consultation with Tūhoe or the Crown negotiators. The only media coverage of Key’s statement that day that gave any of the historical background to the issue was a column in the New Zealand Herald by Paul Moon, specialist in Māori history, who set out in detail the history of Crown confiscations of Tūhoe land, their treatment of Tūhoe people, and invasions of Tūhoe land since the time of settlement. This was not a report—it was a column; that is, someone’s opinion. Nevertheless, the feedback to Moon’s column on the New Zealand Herald website overwhelmingly thanked him for providing a history that people had been unaware of. ....

It is much easier to broadcast images of present day protest action than it is to broadcast images of past Treaty violations.
There are also cultural issues at stake here. Speaking very generally, while Māori, as with many
others of the world’s indigenous peoples, see the past as an intrinsic part of the present and even the
future, for Pākehā the past is out of sight, behind us. Pākehā news workers, therefore, even if they
know of the historical background to a news story, may not see this history as strictly relevant.
It is the elimination of history from the news that contributes to its monocultural nature. To tell
a story without taking the past into account can in itself be seen as a monocultural practice. At the
same time, the absence of historical context feeds into ideas of Māori privilege, a lack of any
understanding about why so many Māori are on the negative side of our social indicators (as indeed,
are indigenous people around the world), and the lack of any understanding of Treaty settlements as
some small recompense for what iwi (tribes) have lost in the last 170 years."

Abel, Sue (2010) "Mainstream Television News, Difference and Tūhoe

Lots to think about riding around the countryside

No comments:

Post a Comment