What Waitangi Day means to me

"So much to celebrate as a nation"

GRACE KING
Last updated 10:17 06/02/2013

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OPINION: We asked our readers to tell us what Waitangi Day means to them. Here student Grace King, 17, writes about her longing for a day when New Zealand celebrates its national pride.

Starting primary school at age five, we learn about the defining point at the beginning of New Zealand history: The signing of the Treaty of Waitangi.

Every year since then, we cover it again in more detail as we get older.

We learn about how the British colonised New Zealand, and the problems with the Treaty throughout our history.

We learn about how misunderstood translations have shaped how Maori and Pakeha interacted in the 20th century.

As a teenager now, it is still covered in Social Studies and History, but whenever the teacher mentions us studying it yet again, none of us stifle our groans at hearing about it again and again since we started school.

Almost every high school student dreads the days when a Social Studies teacher tells you "Next week, we will be looking at the Treaty of Waitangi", because it almost seems irrelevant to us as teenagers now.

Despite being one of the most important parts of our history, to my friends and I Waitangi Day is more about going to the beach or sleeping in and a day off school. We don't think of it as anything special to us, just another day.

Although it's our National day, like Fourth of July for the Americans, or Australia Day across the ditch, we don't hold it in the same regard.

There's no real national celebrations for the day we became a united country, nothing significant we do as a nation.

It has now almost become commercialised, with one of our major national retailers having a week-long Waitangi Day sale.

As a young New Zealander, I find myself disappointed in our lack of national pride.

We have no sense of nationalism, very little honour for anything we've achieved, except for sport.

This saddens me in a time where there is so much disharmony in the world, and we should be celebrating ourselves, everything we've done since 1840.

There should be concerts where they showcase New Zealand musicians, play New Zealand produced movies on the TV.

We have so much to celebrate about ourselves as a nation, and Waitangi Day should be the time when we do that.

It should be a time when we celebrate not only our music and movies, but our history and culture.

We have a rich, interesting culture built upon what was here, and also what was brought here.

We moan and groan about learning our history, about the Treaty, because there is no emphasis on how important it is to our society today, how it has shaped our nation.

Members of Parliament go to Waitangi every year, but often there is little shared with the general public about this visit besides the ceremonial aspect.

I believe that it should be something that affects change, not a ceremonial visit which has no effect on us as a country.

There is so much that just a conversation could affect, and this is the time when it should be done, on the day that we place emphasis on our nationhood and global identity.

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What do other readers think about Waitangi Day? Read here.


- © Fairfax NZ News

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