Monday, June 28, 2010
David Round: The Maori Sovereignty Movement
Note several things. This agenda has been around for quite a while. It has been the setting in which all other negotiations so far have been conducted. Other settlements have not been the end of the Maori agenda, but just steps on the way, just softening us up one step at a time. Note that many of the speakers are familiar to us; some are very prominent within Maoridom, and although we may dismiss some others as rabble-rousers, we cannot deny that they do have a following. Note also that some of the real firebrands in this movement ~ Moana Jackson, Annette Sykes, Titewhai Harawira, Tama Iti and Ken Mair are conspicuously absent. Would that have been because their views were even more terrifying?
Just to mention several of those last five, if I may, for a moment. Moana Jackson maintains that by the Treaty ‘Maori allowed for a house of Pakeha culture to be built alongside their house.’ It is not enough to have bicultural room for Maori in the Pakeha house. The Treaty guarantees both peoples the right to house their cultures adequately, and Maori people therefore need an entirely separate independent house. The Maori race ~ whatever that is these days ~ must be entirely independent of Pakeha. In advocating dual sovereignty Jackson observes that ‘at the very least there are more than twenty different sovereignties in the land area of Europe and they seem to operate without too much bitterness or debate’. Does he know the first thing about European history, which, like the history of the rest of the world, is full of bloodshed? The Maori Battalion went to Europe ~ has he never heard of them? Is he actually unaware of Maori history’s dreadful record of war? I find that hard to believe. So why does he say what he does?
At other times Jackson has gone beyond this ‘separate but equal’ view and maintained that ’the Treaty says that people are permitted to live in peace in this country under the mentor of Maori rule’. His English is not perfect, but we understand his message.
Tama Iti believes that sovereignty is ‘repossession of all Tuhoe lands, total control of Tuhoe resources by Tuhoe and determination of the future of Tuhoe by Tuhoe’. Ken Mair has stated that he does not consider himself a New Zealander and that any decision of the courts on Moutua Gardens (or, presumably, anything else) is ‘an irrelevance’.
As I have already written, perhaps among these claims we can obtain reassurance from the actions of two of the protesters who occupied the Takahue School in Northland. They were demanding tino rangatiratanga, but two of their number obtained Social Welfare grants to replace clothing destroyed when some of the protesters burnt the school down. On the other hand, I don’t think Social Welfare payments will stop them wanting a lot more.
I should add that some Maoris quoted in the book say very sensible things, doubting the practicality or wisdom of any return to tribalism, chiefly authority, welfare dependency and, as John Tamihere does, urging Maori ‘not to trade on purist mythology from the 1840s…..Maori cannot turn the clock back’. Even this moderate man, though, thinks that Maori should have no choice but to be put on the Maori electoral roll, and wants the Treaty written into a new constitution.
In the book, Mike Smith claims that the ‘kawana’, the governor, was merely a ‘chief for the pakeha’. Maori ‘have the main contract to look after this place and we subcontracted out some functions , some limited authority to the kawanatanga to look after their own people and ensure that they lived peacefully within…our society. We have the authority, the predominant or primary say in what happens here….Increasingly Maori are saying ‘….If you Pakeha can’t live up to your responsibilities, then we are going to have to make you subject to our jurisdiction, in terms of sorting you out.’
I may have quoted Wira Gardiner, former chief executive of the Ministry of Maori Development and former Maori vice-president of the National Party, before. He ‘rejects the common criticism that tribalism is divisive and is holding Maori back….[W]hat we are seeing in Bosnia is a desire by Bosnians to return to ethnic roots. The Bosnians, Croats, Serbs and Muslims were forcibly placed together this century. The break-up of Yugoslavia shows that tribalism is not dead. Of course it is going to cause trouble. But just because it creates problems doesn’t mean that it’s wrong.’ Gardiner would not share Moana Jackson’s optimism, then, about different European peoples ~ or Maori tribes ~ living peacefully side by side. As I remarked in Truth Or Treaty?, ‘[t]he unspeakable atrocities and bloodshed of Yugoslavia are, it seems, just ‘problems’, about which the former head of a New Zealand government department is not unduly concerned. In his chest, it seems, there beats the heart of a warrior and statesman, not afraid to contemplate the breaking of a few eggs in the new tribal Yugoslavia of Aotearoa. We have been warned.’
Sandra Lee considers treaty negotiations a ‘nation to nation’ issue, like the negotiations on the GATT treaty. Parliament has no business interfering in the matter.
Maarire Goodall believes that ‘many actions taken in the name of the Crown….[and] given a false veneer of legality by parliament have been quite unconstitutional and illegal. In due time the courts will recognise these mistakes….Parliament eventually will recognise a mixed sovereignty originating from both Maori and the Crown.’ Parliament should not be able to legislate against the Treaty, and we can only speculate as to how he proposes that this principle be enforced or applied in practice.
For Hekia Parata, now a National Party list Member of Parliament, ‘there is no Maoridom without the tribes,’ and ‘sovereignty is about restoring iwi decision-making. She does agree, though, that things have changed, and tino rangatiratanga ‘does not have to be territorial sovereignty; it can be cultural or political sovereignty’. The recognition of change is sensible, although it would be even more sensible to acknowledge that change means that any ‘rangatiratanga’ is a dead letter.
Ranginui Walker talks of ‘models’ for the realisation of Maori sovereignty. He thinks that government of this country will become ‘untenable’ unless we have, say, an upper house in parliament with an equal number of tangata whenua and ‘tangata tiriti’ (Treaty people i.e. non-Maoris). Maori would have to be able to prevent legislation. Otherwise they might ‘engage in civil disobedience all over the country. [The government] couldn’t police it. They couldn’t control it. Especially with modern technology ~ explosives, arson and things like that.’
This, too, is clearly a warning we should ponder carefully.
The complacent may reply that these people are the lunatic fringe, and not worth worrying about. They are certainly at what we might think to be on the lunatic fringe. But they are prominent and influential, not remote crazy irrelevancies. Angry violent lunatics sometimes rise to be in charge. Societies do experience revolutions and rebellions. Why, I ask again, should we be automatically exempt? As Maori expect more and more, as our society becomes more polarised, and as it becomes poorer and less able to satisfy continuing and rising Maori expectations, why should we have nothing to worry about?
The Waitangi Tribunal, incidentally, has on other occasions disagreed with its own acceptance that sovereignty was ceded to the Crown in 1840. In its report on the Taranaki claim ~ the report written without actually hearing the evidence of the Crown ‘on many matters’ ~ the Tribunal declares that, with respect to Taranaki claims, the main claim, more significant even than that of land deprivation, is that of ‘disempowerment’ ~ by which it means the ‘denigration and destruction of Maori autonomy or self-government’. Maoris ‘should be respected as founding peoples….and not merely as another cultural minority. It thinks that ‘if the drive for autonomy is no longer there then Maori have either ceased to exist as a people or have ceased to be free’. No prizes for guessing which of these two options the Tribunal will go for.
This is Maori sovereignty. These are the people, and this is the movement, whose flag our Prime Minister orders to be flown from government flagpoles on our national day. Is he unaware of what that flag stands for? I can hardly believe that he is; it would show him and his advisers to be appallingly negligent. Surely the meaning of any flag flying together with our national flag must be investigated before it is flown? But if our rulers know what this flag means, and despite that allow it to be flown, what does that say about them and their attitudes? Whose side are they on?
at 12:06 AM