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Thursday, February 07, 2013

Waitangi: when's the land coming back?

Waitangi Day has again brought a bout of sweeping mass amnesia to the vast majority of the Pakeha population who prefer to think of the Treaty as an open-ended licence to impose upon the land and upon Maori a white, European order, and regard any challenge to this plank of their mythology as a threat to their racial dominance. Pakeha don't like being confronted with these sorts of truths and with any exhibition of the reality of 173 years of colonisation - especially on a day Pakeha need more than any other to celebrate as a legitimisation of their existence here in these islands. That Maori gave them that legitimacy via the Treaty is taken for granted; that the Treaty makes national government conditional and qualified upon the protection of Maori rights is not. Not in public discourse, not in public policy and not in the law.

The fact is the Treaty does not mention the word "colony" and only speaks of protection - a protectorate in which local autonomy is preserved and guaranteed to the tribes. The chiefs would not have signed had the colonial project of mass migration and a total take-over been made explicit.  So it is not being honoured for Maori - not since before the land wars waged against Maori by the Crown in the 1860s could it said to have been honoured (however imperfectly) in practice - but the Pakeha seem to believe (as their government does) that all of this is being remedied by the Treaty Settlements process and that after they are all signed off it will be all over. The PM seems to think so.

The Prime Minister's Waitangi Day speech:--We come together here each year to commemorate the signing of the Treaty and, increasingly, people are using the occasion to look forward rather than back.
Mostly, we have the Treaty settlement process to thank for that.
We have given priority to the settlement process because it is in everyone’s interests to get the job done.
Within each of those iwi that has settled, a new generation has been freed from carrying the legacy which has been handed down for, in many cases, more than 100 years.

How can you be "freed" when the main resource and source of status - the land - isn't being returned? How much freedom is there when a tribe will only ever hope to receive a lump sum representing a mere fraction of the land's value and a mere fraction of the value of the losses and deprevation consequently suffered? Each generation will have to keep making interim payments and side deals until all their land is returned and all of those rights promised in the Treaty are upheld. The sleazy NZ government tried these half-pie deals starting in the 1920s, again with Labour in the 1940s and now the current traunche out of the petty cash starting in 1992 where the government (Labour as it so happens) later went on to draw the line making everything before 1992 as "historic" and therefore unable to be remitted to the Waitangi Tribunal.

They are called Treaty "settlements", but let's be clear: the NZ Settlements Act 1863 was both the confiscation and the occupation mechanism used by the government in their take-over and that many statutes have since come and gone which re-affirmed the seizure all the way down to today. So when the government refers to Treaty deals as "Settlements" and the "Settlement process" it is a signal reminder that each of these deals is an attempt by the NZ government to gain the assent of a tribe to re-impose the seizure. The fact that each of this traunche is constrained by the Tainui and Ngai Tahu escalation clauses (based on the risible $1 billion "fiscal envelope") is ample evidence that these "settlements" are certainly not between equals, are pre-determined, prescriptive and because of the 'take it or leave it' nature they are also performed under some duress. How much credibility can such a process really have? How can a stop-gap be deemed durable?

But the PM of NZ, responsible as they are primarily for the promotion of the material wealth and security of the Pakeha people, will never be above the menace of race threats in order to keep that dominance.  Pakeha control immigration and are thus able to keep their majority and keep Maori in a minority position (population displacement is the usual approach in most colonial entities, eg. Israel, USA, Canada, parts of Indonesia etc.) and from this suppression of population comes the democratic over-powering of the indigenous people. This is a cycle which reinforces Pakeha confidence to assert their claims in terms of democracy rather than the Treaty. It is an empty self-justification which holds as much weight as "it all happened in the past so forget it" does.

And like most Pakeha the PM can safely regurgitate the racial supremacy/racial genocide at the heart of the colonial project because of their strategically created population imbalance:

But while the outlook for Maori and Maori-Crown relations are mostly positive, there remains a small but vocal few who are sometimes apparently unable or unwilling to see the world through any lens other than that of Maori disadvantage.
They seem from their public demeanour to be permanently aggrieved, and rarely constructive.
Those headline-seekers know they will get much more attention by being flamboyant and negative than they will by being considered and positive.
The problem is that sometimes their diversions – including here at Waitangi - are not only distracting, but they can contribute to putting at risk the public consensus that exists towards the process of settling legitimate Maori grievances.
It is that consensus that also allows us, in government, to be innovative about ideas that, for example, might lift Maori educational achievement and economic participation.
Public goodwill should not be taken for granted.
It needs to be treated with respect. It is short-sighted and counter-productive of activists to use tactics and language which have the effect of eroding public support for initiatives aimed at turning around the very situation that the activists are complaining about.

Know your place says the PM: it can all be taken away by us, the Pakeha. The Treaty only operates at the whim of the white people.

These threats have actually been made by Governors and Premiers even before there was a majority white population.  The threats started when they gained a military advantage over Maori  - which was never a difficult prospect given the Royal Navy was the most powerful on the seas and these are islands. As soon as the government was in a tactical position to renege on the Treaty they did so - and succeeding governments have sought to lock that in.

David Shearer's reaction to the PM's commments on activists were typically maladroit: "That's what we all think" he instantly retorted in one of the rare moments he hasn't dithered on camera. "We" being the nice, polite, white people, of course. Apparently he's so tone deaf on Maori sensitivities he's even named his dog 'Tino Rangatiratanga' FFS. Like he didn't have the balls to call it "Nigger"!?

What hope is there for an honouring of the Treaty - and therefore at that point the possibility of moving beyond it - when both main parties are in such a deep state of denial? The entire apparatus of the white state seems to be hiding in a bubble of its own smoke when their Radio NZ National network broadcast the silly Matinee Idol and all manner of (often British) irrelevancies during the day.

The PM then tacks to education to conclude:
Turning around the current waste of human potential would do more for Maori and for New Zealand than probably any other single change.

No - returning the land would do more for Maori than any other single change because that is the root cause of the problem. Giving out some piffling grants here and there, or whatever, is nothing in comparison with regaining the physical basis of existence and practical economic independence. Education, health and other outcomes flow from the security of owning your own resources and the ability to use those resources.

The question remains: when will Maori get their land back? Never - as this government and every government in the past has maintained - is not a viable option.


At 7/2/13 2:38 pm, Blogger Nitrium said...

Do you also tell this story to the American Indians? The Australian Aboriginals? The Canadian Eskimos? They all got a fuck of a LOT rawer deal than the NZ Maori did when they got their treaty from the Europeans (which was just as well, because Maori were very near completely destroying themselves by then in tribal warfare after we armed them with our obviously superior weapons). If we follow the logical conclusion (which apparently you endorse) there will eventually be a civil war in this country (given the Maori will never get everything they think they are entitled to). Now which side do you think will win that? And what scraps do you think the loser will get? Be careful what you wish for, and don't think you can keep pushing forever, because there IS a breaking point and it WON'T involve every non-Maori peacefully vacating the country with their tail's between their legs.

At 7/2/13 3:07 pm, Blogger SteveOves said...

You should give your local iwi or tribe your house, that would be a start for giving Maori land back.

At 7/2/13 4:29 pm, Blogger Mike H said...

That is a great piece Tim. well written.
Nitrium I have heard your rhetoric for the last 30yrs no one is saying that Pakeha should leave NZ.As for a breaking point and pushing what could you actually do? I will tell you absolutely nothing, you need to look at how long Maori has had to wait for a modicum of acceptance as to the absolute wrongs of the European colonists. You have shown through your comments you still miss the vital point of importance land/belonging is to Maori.
As to this civil war talk absolute crap.Again you have no idea what it involves or how it is achieved.Comments like 'we armed them' "our superior weapons" brother you must be fucking old if you were part of the 'we'.

Nice main article however.

At 7/2/13 10:59 pm, Blogger countryboy said...

I kind of agree with Nitrium .
Waitangi Day is a quaint and anachronistic pageant now .

Non Maori aren't going ' home ' per se and Maori are not going to get what they were promised and I believe the concept of Waitangai day as a day of Treaty signing should come up to speed with the pace of evolution . Waitangi Day is becoming a metaphor for the Corporate / Human relationship and on that basis , we're in deep shit then because we're all going through a fresh process of being fucked over .

@ SteveOves . Very funny .

@ MikeH . Well put .

@ Me , Countryboy . Call me Thin Ice Guy if you must .

@ Tim Selwyn . I haven't read your post yet so on that basis , I may have no idea what I'm talking about , but well done you .

At 8/2/13 8:09 am, Blogger Phil said...

Country Boy, I like the ' Corporate/ human relationship while being f...ed over '. I feel that Waitangi day, and its meaning, has been (mis)approriated. It is up for grabs by, guess who ...? Not the Maori for sure, they are bit players in the grand theatre. What would happen if Maori didn't turn up at Waitangi? Impossible, I know, but Maori presence at Waitangi does give the Government credibility. Perhaps that is part of the treaty process.

At 8/2/13 11:48 am, Blogger FreshyNZ said...

I was surprised (not really) at Key's comments. As a non-Pakeha and non-Maori, righting the wrongs of the past shouldn't be based on "public good will" but because it is right and just. And as Tim has pointed out, the settlement process itself is far from right and just, yet Maori are obliged to participate in this unfair process in an unequal partnership. Key should've said, it is "Maori good will" that the NZ public should not take for granted!

At 8/2/13 5:28 pm, Blogger Nitrium said...

I am NOT anti-Maori. All I am trying to articulate is that Maori are one referendum (or civil war) away from losing it all. They are NOT a majority in this country. Treaties across the world have come and gone. e.g. What use is the 1964 Oslo Accord to the Palestinians today? The non-proliferation treaty? The Geneva Convention? The Kyoto Protocol? It is something Maori need to ask themselves, before the continuous pushing, pushing, and then more pushing, even if most of the claims are "legitimate", in that basically Maori technically should OWN the entire country since they discovered it. I won't even get into how and where all the multi-millions in settlements are being spent - but it certainly isn't helping the Maori poverty situation.

At 10/2/13 6:50 pm, Blogger Kuzibro said...

What do they want land back for? So they can grow more gorse.


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