Treaty of Waitangi
In the third part of her examination of the Treaty of Waitangi and democracy, Dame Anne Salmond argues for an approach to Te Tiriti based on tikanga rather than race.
In the 1987 ‘Lands’ case, Sir Robin Cooke argued that the Treaty of Waitangi created ‘a partnership between the races’, between ‘Pākehā and Māori’ or between ‘the Crown and the Māori race’. While the first and second parts of this series focused on the three Ture (laws) of Te Tiriti, the preamble is also illuminating.
In the preamble it is said that “in the benevolent concern (mahara atawai) of the queen for the rangatira and the hapu, and her wish to preserve for them their rangatiratanga and their land, and to assure them of Rongo (peace) and Atanoho occupation), she considered it tika (right) to send to the indigenous inhabitants of New Zealand (nga tangata Maori o Nu Tirani) a Rangatira as a kai-whakarite (literally, one who makes things equal or balanced), and for the Rangatira Maori (indigenous leaders) to accept Kawanatanga (governance) from the Queen, as many people from her tribe (he tokomaha ke nga tangata o tona Iwi) live in or come to this land.
* Te Tiriti and Democracy Part 1
* Te Tiriti and Democracy Part 2
As in Ture 1, 2 and 3, it is clear from the preamble that many different parties are involved in Te Tiriti, including the queen and the “people of her tribe”, the rangatira, the hapū, ngā tāngata māori o Nu Tirani (the natives of New Zealand) and the Governor, and that this is a multilateral and not a bi-racial agreement.
The term “Māori” (ordinary, normal, everyday) is used throughout Te Tiriti as an adjective to describe indigenous individuals, rather than the term “Māori” used as a noun to describe a racial group.
Contrary to these framings, however, the 1987 ‘Lands’ judgment led to many practical strategies and approaches that treat ‘Maori’ and ‘Pākehā’ as two distinct ‘races’. Given that the idea of ”race” is an imperial artifact with a destructive history, and that the racial categories “Māori” and “Pākehā” stem from colonial encounters rather than ancestral tikanga, this is problematic.
As the American Association of Biological Anthropologists recently noted, “The Western concept of race should be understood as a classification system that emerged from and supports European colonialism, oppression, and discrimination. It is not rooted in biological reality, but in the politics of discrimination.
“The belief in races as a natural aspect of human biology and the institutional and structural inequalities (racism) that emerged in tandem with such beliefs in European colonial contexts are among the most damaging elements of human societies. “
While in Ture 3 of Te Tiriti, the Queen gives the “nga tangata Maori o Nu Tirani” (the native inhabitants of New Zealand) “nga tikanga rite tahi” (tikanga exactly equal, right and correct ways of doing things ) with the arrival of settlers, the 1987 “Lands” judgment relied on the colonial idea of “race” rather than indigenous and non-racial framings – whakapapa, for example.
After 250 years of shared history in Aotearoa New Zealand, the lines of natives and new settlers from different backgrounds have become entangled in a way that defies separation into two distinct ‘races’. In whakapapa, with its kinship-based relationships between earth and sky, winds and sea, plants and animals, and people, this kind of complexity is handled with admirable simplicity.
As different types of incoming settlers intermarry and have children with those already living in Aotearoa, they enter the whakapapa, bringing their bloodlines with them. These include people described as “African”, “Asian”, “Pacific Islander”, or “Pākehā” in contemporary census tables. Here, where racial categories do not exist, these tīpuna (ancestors) are all described as tāngata, people with their own origins and ancestral heritages.
Individuals can identify with the kinship group of either parent, and kinship groups are defined by reference to an apical ancestor. Over time, non-native arrivals may even have whānau named after them – the Manuals, Stirlings, Jacksons, O’Regans, etc.
In the logic of whakapapa, ideas of weaving, or binding, or currents flowing together in a river abound. The idea that these interwoven and ever-changing kinship networks can be divided into two distinct and timeless ‘races’ – ‘Maori’ and ‘Pākehā’ – does not sit well with this relational framework. The idea of ”race” also lacks scientific credibility, as noted above.
As whakapapa weaves different lines of descent, difference is not a problem but a creative possibility, generating new forms of life. The promise of ‘ngā tikanga rite tahi’ (exactly equal tikanga) in Te Tiriti, which has yet to be realized, is that of equality between different ways of being. It is precisely the ideas of “racial superiority” that make this kind of weaving almost impossible, tearing the social fabric apart.
In Ture 2 of Te Tiriti, tino rangatiratanga’s promise to their lands, habitations and all their taonga is made to rangatira, hapū and “all people of New Zealand”.
Co-governance arrangements to date have remained close to this promise, focusing on particular kinship groups (often iwi, rather than hapū) and their ancestral rivers, mountains and territories (e.g. the Urewera).
The 1987 rewriting of Te Tiriti as a “partnership between the races”, however, is another matter. If after more than 200 years of having to deal with colonial hubris, Maori leaders argue for parallel forms of governance, formally separating people of indigenous descent from all other New Zealanders, no one should be surprised. . It is a sign that the promise of absolute equality promised in Ture 3 between tāngata Māori and their tikanga, and newcomers and theirs has utterly failed.
Basing constitutional reform on the idea of distinct “races” presents challenges, however. As whakapapa become increasingly complex, comprising ancestors from many different backgrounds, racial silos compel individuals to make choices among tīpuna, affirming some while denying others.
As in colonial times, the whakapapa networks of ties between people and the land were severed by carving up the land into blocks, so the whakapapa networks of ties between different tīpuna and whānau are broken by carving them into “races”. As the saying goes,
Hutia te rito o te harakeke, kei heat te komako e kō? Kī mai ki au, hei aha te mea nui o te ao? Māku e kī atu, he tangata, he tangata, he tangata.
If you tear the heart out of the flax bush, where will the bellbird sing? If you ask me what is the greatest thing in the world, I will answer you, it is people, it is people, it is people.
Constitutional reform based on Ture 3’s promise of the ‘ngā tikanga rite tahi’ and the relational ideas of whakapapa, whanaungatanga and balanced exchange might look very different.
The idea of the world as one great web of life in which all life forms are related by kinship, for example, where earth and sky, rivers and mountains are older and more powerful than people, offers a real alternative to the extractive philosophies that are currently destroying living systems across the planet.
Legal systems informed by the ideas of tika (fair, equitable, appropriate, appropriate) and utu (reciprocity, balance) as well as Western jurisprudence, and health systems that combine the ideas of ora – health, fulfillment, well- being – with the best medical care ideas can produce very different results for tāngata (people) and whānau (families).
An educational system based on a love of learning, vigorous debate and rigorous inquiry, which draws on the best of Western science and arts alongside the ideas and art of wānanga and mātauranga could explore these philosophies more deeply, generating unique contributions to the vast world of knowledge.
Governance structures based on whakapapa and whanaungatanga, which recognize the fundamental links between hapū and their ancestral places and taonga while recognizing the innate dignity of all tāngata, and the bonds forged over generations with those who have come later could offer a new kind of democracy that truly delivers on the promises of Te Tiriti.
These possibilities seem full of optimism and hope. What destroys their life force, their mauri ora, is the toxin of racist thought. If only for this reason, the idea of basing the future of Aotearoa on “a partnership between the races” must be carefully reconsidered.
Even in procedural matters, the 1987 “Lands” judgment is of no help. By defining the Treaty as “a partnership between the Crown and the Maori race”, it assumes that the rest of the population can be fairly excluded from discussions on Treaty issues. It is highly undemocratic and more likely to inflame than cure racist sentiment.
While the arguments presented here are well-founded, and other New Zealanders are also parties to the Treaty, a much more inclusive discussion is long overdue. This would have the merit of respecting both the tikanga of open debate on the marae and that of democratic debate between citizens of Aotearoa in New Zealand.
[Note: This article revisits reports commissioned by the Waitangi Tribunal and drawing on collaborative research with Dr. Merimeri Penfold and Dr. Cleve Barlow in 1992, and 2010 a, b and c].