Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Bruce Moon: What is “tino rangatiratanga”?

A Stuff article on 6th February 2022 by two Victoria University of Wellington academics, Maria Bargh and Luke Fitzmaurice is one of many to appear within a few days around 6th February (our  “Waitangi Day”) which talks about They possibly hold the record by mentioning “tino rangatiratanga” no less than sixteen times – by my count anyway.

Now who are these people and what is this “tino rangatiratanga’ that they and so many like them keep talking about so repeatedly?


Bargh commences by declaring herself to be “Te Arawa and Ngati Awa” with Fitzmaurice “Te Aupouri” likewise. Now this is curious, to say the least. One could hardly imagine a more English name than Fitzmaurice.  So where did Luke get it from – assuredly not from Te Aupouri?  Why does he not include his other genealogical heritage?  If he does not know it then a simple DNA test would assist.  On what basis does he assert a particular strand of his genealogy is more relevant than any other?  After all both Maori and non-Maori are important components of his heritage.  He would not exist without both and it is disingenuous to pretend otherwise.

 We may legitimately pose a similar question to Bargh - from Te Arawa and Ngati Awa but again otherwise undisclosed heritage which ipso facto denies the events and full validity of her existence.

Now each may claim to “feel Maori” and be justified in declaring such an identity and who is to deny that academics have feelings like everybody else?  But, as they point out, quoting “renowned Maori scholar Mason Durie”: “realisation of tino rangatiratanga ... include(s) constitutional change, legislation, government policy” and several other things. These are substantial and serious topics, so much so that the feelings of some academics are better put well aside when they are addressed and replaced by sober, serious and informed public opinion.


So, what better place to start than 5th February 1840 at Waitangi when “tino rangatiratanga” first entered the consciousness of the general public?*  Yes, that’s right: 5th February 1840. There was simply no such term in any dialect of Maori before that date when it was invented by the Williams, father and son, who had some difficulty in finding a suitable word for “possession” (of property) in Article Second of Hobson’s final draft in English of the preceding day.

Indeed personal possession of property was only a rudimentary concept in earlier Maori society as amply described by F.E. Maning in his classic text: “Old New Zealand”, 1863.  Such as existed lay principally with chiefs.  So the Williams used “rangatiratanga” including the suffix “tanga” that is

“-ship” and the emphatic “tino” (“very”).  Moreover, the Williams’ text was reviewed on the morning of 5th February by Busby and others, Busby proposing the choice of “Wakaminenga” in preference to “huihuinanga” which was accepted and that was all.

So, the great meeting assembled, Hobson reading out his English text and Williams his Maori version.  Proceedings were meticulously recorded by Colenso and checked by Busby and there is nowhere in that record or anywhere else known to me where the choice of “tino rangatiratanga” for simple “possession” was challenged.

Moreover, and this point is overlooked (or deliberately ignored) time and again by the treaty-twisters, “tino rangatiratanga” was assured to “tangata katoa o Nu Tirani” and that translates unequivocally as “all the people of New Zealand” and “all” means “all” whatever anybody may say.

“Tino rangatiratanga” never became popular usage, having fulfilled its singular use for the benefit of all parties, and it died out completely for more than a century until raised from the dead by modern racist radicals.

It had its day and was forgotten.  I challenge Bargh and Fitzmaurice to produce a single fully authenticated case between 1850 and 1950 to the contrary (excepting quotations of the treaty itself of course).  What has been called “a singular, late and remarkable exception” was when Queen Victoria was addressed as “Tino Rangatira” in a mid-19th century letter to her by some Rotorua chiefs, but even that does not use “tino rangatiratanga”. The Bargh and Fitzmaurice claim that “Rangatiratanga has never been abandoned” is quite simply a gross falsehood.

Furthermore, the pretence that any latter-day “meaning” attributed to “tino rangatiratanga” is applicable in a 182-year-old document, the Treaty of Waitangi, is a serious methodological error entirely unacceptable in the work of any academic whatever.

What Bargh and Fitzmaurice write is neither history nor informed commentary.  They would do well to read the Education Act carefully before they indulge in further misleading exercises.

Such imaginary and recreated history has become very fashionable amongst NZ academics who then use (or misuse) their academic gravitas to assail the people of NZ until it seems to become an unquestioned de facto truth.  Perhaps one can guess why.

What Article Second of the Treaty of Waitangi really did was assure all the people of New Zealand (tangata katoa o Nu Tirani) of their right to own property, both real and personal, with the implicit recognition that the Queen would protect those rights against threats from foreign powers and from other enemies within its shores.  And that is that!

Busby had indeed used “rangatiratanga” on his 1835 paper tiger, the so-called “Declaration of Independence” and while it may be claimed by some, 180-plus years later, that “tino rangatiratanga” was not a suitable choice by the Williams for “possession”, the fact remains that nobody, as far as I know, objected to its use as such on 5th February 1840.

Bruce Moon is a retired computer pioneer who wrote "Real Treaty; False Treaty - The True Waitangi Story".


MPHW said...

Brilliant and erudite piece Bruce. I await the reply.

Wendy McArthur said...

Can someone tell me please what would qualify me as a Maori so that I could go onto the Maori roll? Many of the Maori representatives in parliament represent non-Maori electorates, so presumably Maori folk have the choice to be on either the Maori or the non-Maori electoral roll. Do non-Maori have the same choice?