How do Kiwis celebrate Waitangi Day?

KENNETH SETIU
Last updated 11:12 06/02/2013

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OPINION: Kia ora e tama, tēnā koe e hine, nau mai haere mai rā koe ki te tau hou.

I recently wrote, spoke and listened to these words and phrases being used as students both old and new returned to the school where I work, only it is not a school. He Wharekura tēnei. It is a Wharekura.

I muse that without the Treaty of Waitangi and the importance of this document it is possible that I would not be working where I am today nor that would I be born since my father was born in Samoa.

I think our collective past certainly ties into Waitangi Day via governmental connections but how and why is an on-going debate.

How then do I celebrate Waitangi Day? In what way does it mean anything to me?

Well firstly and selfishly it means a day of work as a teacher.

Most years we all miss out if it hits a weekend.

More deeply, however, it is a time for me to reflect on the Treaty agreement made between Māori and the Crown.

When mentioning this aloud to anyone remotely interested in the topic, deep feelings and beliefs are shaken and many of us polarised by the process.

How then does this public holiday commemorate New Zealanders, if anyone or anything at all?

In my current employment position I am required to have sound knowledge and understanding of the Treaty of Waitangi and the principles that flow from that agreement.

In truth, I really struggle with comprehending and applying these principles to everyday situations even though I work in a Wharekura and have learnt to speak Te Reo Māori in the last two years.

Instead of celebrating, revering and honouring Waitangi Day like I might for Anzac Day the plan is to pack up my four boys and their beautifully pregnant mum and head to the Waikato River for a swim with friends.

During lunch together we will most likely debate, provoke and annoy one another with deep questions and judgements about the Treaty and the role it has, or fails to have, in the life of Aotearoa.

These open-minded friends are of Dutch, Indian and German descent and have little British or Māori blood.

The topic and heated discussion that may eventuate will not matter to us since we love to toss around ideas about how we can solve the challenges of being a multicultural people as New Zealanders.

I have little choice about engaging the subject as my sons are all aged less than ten and are half Dutch, quarter Māori and Samoan.

They have questions about their connections.

They will need to navigate more carefully in a very multicultural New Zealand.

Treaty issues relating to their citizenship and whakapapa may hoist upon them challenges that my generation and ones before never faced.

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I sincerely hope for them to be the peacemakers and promoters of unity in this diverse New Zealand that is being forged in the now, readying itself for tomorrow.

Meanwhile though I will wonder how the Harawira whānau from Taitokerau managed to gain so much airtime again this year at Waitangi.

We are somewhat related since my kuia was born and raised in Awanui and of Ngāti Kahu and my koro connected to Ngāti Wai of Whangaruru and Ngāti Rehua in Great Barrier Island.

I suppose the issues seem closer to home than I want them to be.

The drama and divisiveness of Waitangi Day tugs at the prejudices I have in my heart so that I pray to God for strength to believe the best about my people, my people being Māori, non-Māori and those being New Zealanders all at the same time.

I would love a simple solution to the future of our nation. The past at times to me looks so complex and cloudy.

Compared to Australia Day and the Aboriginal Australian people, Māori seem to have a better deal.

Not a perfect deal of course, which ones are when war and conquering nations are involved? I am so thankful the Spanish or Japanese did not invade Aotearoa at the time the British and other Europeans arrived, it may not have turned out so well for all of us.

Looking ahead, my Waitangi Day is going to be spent being thankful for this beautifully covered nation of land, sea, rivers, lakes and most importantly, you the people.

I am going to hug my children tighter, smile more brightly with my darling wife and hope that the change I want see in this country will begin and grow in my own heart while we continue praising and asking God, Ihowa, to keep defending our New Zealand.

Nō reira e Te whānau,

Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā rā koutou katoa

- Waikato

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