Saturday, November 9, 2013
Mike Butler: Talking up Maori sovereignty
Two Far North elders used the commemoration of the signing of the 1835 Declaration of Independence at Waitangi, on October 28, to talk up a separate Maori government. What’s wrong with that? The only reason anyone outside the little commemoration knew about this was because a Maori TV reporter covered it, and that reporter did so without questioning the mixture of half-truths spouted by the elders.
Elder Nuki Alridge, according to Dean Nathan in a Maori Television report titled “Maori Government Challenge Before Ngapuhi”, described the 1835 Declaration of Independence as “a sovereign covenant bequeathed to their descendants” that the Crown “continues to trample”.
Nathan made no attempt to say what the declaration was.
In fact, the declaration was an initiative of British Resident James Busby, who believed that an eccentric French man, Baron Charles de Thierry, was part of a French plot to annex New Zealand, so decided to declare the country independent, under the sovereignty of the United Tribes of New Zealand.
The only problem was that there were no united tribes. They were fighting each other on and off.
Nevertheless, Busby presented his declaration of independence to chiefs in his vicinity, around Waitangi. Thirty five signed on October 28 and at least 10 signed later. Ambitious resolutions were signed at the October 28 meeting but nothing further eventuated and no further meetings were held.
So it appears the so-called sovereign covenant was not so much trampled by the Crown. Arlidge’s forebears simply ignored it, and five years later whatever agreement existed was absorbed into the Treaty of Waitangi.
Lieutenant William Hobson made sure he got the majority of the chiefs who signed the declaration also to sign the treaty. Hobson said: "The treaty which forms the base of all my proceedings was signed at Waitangi on the 6th February 1840, by 52 chiefs, 26 of whom were of the federation, and formed a majority of those who signed the Declaration of Independence”.
As for the flag of the united tribes, this was another Busby initiative after an unregistered New Zealand ship was seized in Australia. A selection of three or four designs was sent from Australia, and chiefs chose one at a meeting on March 20, 1834.
The flag was of a St George's Cross with another cross in the canton containing four stars on a blue field.
After the treaty was signed, the British Union Jack flag became the de facto flag of the colony of New Zealand. The current flag was designed and adopted for restricted use in 1869 and became the national flag in 1902.
The Busby flag was adopted by the Shaw, Savill and Albion Steamship Company, a British shipping company that operated ships between Britain, Australia and New Zealand until the late 1960s.
The declaration, the confederation of the united tribes, and the flag faded into history until October 2010 when the Far North Ngapuhi tribe claimed that sovereignty was not given up in their signing of the treaty. New significance was breathed into the declaration, the confederation, and the flag.
Because the Waitangi Tribunal is investigating all this, it is in the interests of the claimants to talk about the flag, declaration and united tribes as much as possible to create the illusion that the government has breached the treaty by failing to give this formerly non-existent body due recognition.
The Maori TV reporter Dean Nathan also took at face value and reported an assertion, from chief Kingi Taurua of the dysfunctional Te Tii marae at Waitangi, that members of the Waitangi-based Confederation of Tribes are meeting island nations to establish branches across the Pacific.
So I guess we are headed for the Confederation of Tribes of New Zealand, the Pacific, and why not Australia, with all the Maori Aussies over there, although I don’t think Mozzies as they are called are greatly interested in all this backward-looking stuff that the time-warp Waitangi bros are into.
Remember, Taurua is the elder who either cannot control the ritual abuse at Waitangi each year or condones it, and excelled himself at this year’s Waitangi Day when he either could not sort out or condoned the argie-bargie caused by the aged activist Titewai Harawira over which auntie was going to escort the Prime Minister on to the marae.
Taurua asserted to Maori Television that Fiji’s acting Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama is keen to align with the confederation.
For years antics such as these have been humoured, ignored, or dismissed. But be aware, since the Waitangi Tribunal has a track record of advocating for claimants no matter how far-fetched the claim may be, the half-truths spun by these Far North elders will find a place in a tribunal report to help justify substantial compensation.
at 9:26 PM