Monday, August 7, 2023

Roger Childs: The Matariki Musings of Claire Charters

Matariki reflects the value that we now place on Maori culture and traditions after 180 years of colonisation. Claire Charters

A New Zealander of mixed ancestry

Claire Charters is a New Zealander who has done very well academically and politically. She is a law professor at the University of Auckland and has a Ph D from Cambridge. Her University profile states: Claire is from Ngati Whakaue, Tuwharetoa, Nga Puhi and Tainui

Benefiting from Maori heritage

·      Her research is in Indigenous peoples’ rights in international and constitutional law, often with a comparative focus, including the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), tikanga Māori and the state legal system. 

·      She has also has expertise in the relationship between human rights and Indigenous peoples' rights and on the legitimacy of Indigenous peoples' rights under international law. 

·      Claire regularly speaks around the globe on International and constitutional law and Indigenous peoples and has had many visiting academic fellowships. 

·      Claire is a Royal Society Rutherford Discovery Fellow (2019 - 2024) investigating constitutional transformation to realise Māori aspirations under Te Tiriti o Waitangi. 

·      Claire typically focuses her academic research and teaching with advocacy for the rights of Indigenous peoples at the domestic and international levels. 

·      She has been consulted on Cabinet appointments to scope and draft a national plan of action to realise the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). 

·      She has been a trustee on the UN Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Peoples (2014 - 2020). 

·      She has also worked as an advisor to the President of the UN General Assembly (2016 - 2017). 

·      From 2010-2013 Claire worked for the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in the Indigenous Peoples and Minorities Section, focusing on the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. 

·      Claire co-directs the Aotearoa New Zealand Centre for Indigenous Peoples and the Law, a leading university centre in Aotearoa focused on research, advocacy and leadership in Indigenous peoples' rights. 

Perpetuating myths and misinformation

Claire Charters is clearly an intelligent, highly educated and talented woman, and consequently people who read her writings and articles would expect her to be honest, accurate and balanced. However in a recent Stuff article she exhibited a disregard for the truth and an acceptance of many historical myths. 

Her main qualifications are in law, so one wonders how much New Zealand history she has actually read. Her July article A mark of how far we have to travel should have been rejected by the editors on the basis of inaccuracy and unproven generalisations.

In the paragraphs that follow I quote from her article - indicated in italics – and comment on the veracity of her statements.

… after 180 years of colonisation.

The early Polynesians who came from Hawaiki in the 13 century were themselves immigrants and colonists, and some Maori chiefs in the 19th century stated that these early migrants treated the original natives badly.  In her statement Charters clearly means colonisation of our country by British, European, American, Australian and other people. However the period of colonisation ended in 1908 when New Zealand ceased to be a British colony and became an independent Dominion within the British Empire.

Matariki is an expression of our tino rangitiratanga

But Charters has considerably less than half Maori blood, and as a New Zealander of mixed ancestry “our” is the wrong word. Rangitiratanga in 1840 meant “possession” however today it literally means rule by chiefs, but the Maori elites and the Waitangi Tribunal today translate it to mean the right of Maori to rule themselves. As a modern woman with a commitment to equality, rule by (male) chiefs should be unacceptable.

 Both Te Tiriti and He Whakaputanga o te Rangatiratanga o Nu Tireni (English as the Declaration of Independence) express the right for Maori to rule ourselves in accordance with our law. 

A lot of inaccuracies here. Firstly note that New Zealand was known as Nu Tireni, not Aotearoa in both documents mentioned above. Again there is the use of “our” and “ourselves” but Charters is less than half Maori. There is no mention of the facts that James Busby wrote the Declaration and virtually all the chiefs who signed were from Northland. 

Part-Maori historian Paul Moon observes that the Declaration was the impulsive work by a minor official (Busby) with the misplaced view that the New Zealand chiefs would soon come to share some exalted ideals of government as he did. Te Tiriti did no express the right for the natives (later known as Maori) to rule themselves. They were guaranteed possession (the meaning of rangitiratanga at the time) of their lands, dwellings and all their property (taonga). Furthermore the natives did not have their own legal system, just accepted practices – tikanga. (In the late 20th century Professor Hugh Kawharu conveniently change the meanings of rangitiratanga, taonga and kawantanga.)

A Te Tiriti poltical partnership model is not just beneficial for Maori, as the frontline response from marae to our recent severe weather events illustrates.

There was no mention of partnership in Te Tiriti. The valuable assistance of local iwi was just part of a wider community response from local authorities and community groups to the impact of devastating weather events.

However Aotearoa still refuses to repudiate the doctrine of discovery - the racist rule that permitted European powers to take land from “natives” because they didn’t qualify as humans.

Charters gets rather mixed up here with the experience of Australian Aborigines. Firstly the name of the country is New Zealand not Aotearoa. I don’t know anyone who thinks that the British were the first to discover New Zealand.

 Over the Tasman, Aborigines did not qualify as humans for over 150 years and were not counted in an Australian census until the 1960s. The taking over of land in Australia was based on the inaccurate concept of terra nullius – “land belonging to no-one”.  

The Native New Zealanders (later called Maori) however were the beneficiaries of a very enlightened treaty which guaranteed them the rights of British citizens. Land was bought from them and the only land “taken” was because certain Maori tribes rebelled against the Crown and had some land confiscated. Most of this land was later returned or bought.

… the Crown’s legal claim to sovereignty is at best confused. Before we can claim a nation founded on the rule of law, we must address the fundamental illegality of the state.

This is more nonsense unworthy of a New Zealand Professor. The Maori chiefs who signed Te Tiriti o Waitangi clearly conceded sovereignty to Queen Victoria and her heirs.  Article 1 stated: “The Chiefs of the Confederation of the United Tribes of New Zealand and other Chiefs who have not joined the Confederation cede to the Queen of England forever the entire Sovereignty of their country.”  Nothing confusing about this crystal clear statement. Many of the rangitira reinforced the 1840 transfer of sovereignty at the 1860 Kohimarama Conference. So there is no issue about the legality of the state.

Has Charters read the 1840 Treaty and details about the 1860 conference? (The best book on the latter is John Robinson’s The Kohimarama Conference 1860: Chiefs Support Christianity and the Queen)

Our Supreme Court now recognizes tikanga Maori as an independent legal system.

The definition of tikanga according to the Te Aka Maori Dictionary is “correct procedure, custom, habit, lore, method, manner, rule, way, code, meaning, plan, practice, convention, protocol - the customary system of values and practices that have developed over time and are deeply embedded in the social context.” Note that the words “law” or “legal system” are not mentioned. It is difficult to know what aspects of tikanga the Supreme Court accepts. 

In traditional Maori society tikanga could mean seeking revenge, slaughtering, eating and enslaving enemy tribes.


The Charters’ article makes reference to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and, as mentioned above, the Professor has been active in researching and implementing it. Helen Clark in her time as Prime Minister did not sign up to UNDRIP as she argued it was inconsistent with the way New Zealand is governed. 

Her successor John Key has no such scruples. Desperate to keep the support of the Maori Party to stay in power, he allowed Minister of Maori Affairs, Pita Sharples, to secretly fly to  New York to sign New Zealand up to  UNDRIP. There was no consultation with the public and one wonders if all his National MPs knew. Key argued that it was non-binding, but that is not Charters’ opinion or the view of the current Labour Government. Some of the outcomes are He Puapaua and the increasing favourtism shown by government to people who can claim some Maori background.

A highly dishonest article

As I have outlined A mark of how far we have to travel is a mish-mash of dishonesty, exaggeration and misinformation. Charters has clearly not read Te Tiriti of 1840, or relevant works about New Zealand history. Is also interesting that Charters never mentions the word “equality” which is a key concept in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights – Article 1 All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.

Sadly, many readers will have concluded that coming from a “distinguished” Professor the article represents the truth about the state of our nation and what should happen in the future.  

Roger Childs is a writer and freelance journalist. He is a former history and geography teacher, who wrote or co-authored 10 school textbooks. 


boudicca said...

To my knowledge Paul Moon has no Maori ancestry, which is why he got into big trouble over his book on Maori cannibalism - This Horrid Practice

Anonymous said...

Bravo - such rebuttal must be pursued or else egregious misinterpretation will be accepted without question.

Perhaps it is already too late and these erroneous beliefs will prevail ...... this will be revealed during the national debate which will be launched for 2024 - 2026 if/when ACT wins approval for its referendum.

e.g. the UNDRIP Declaration itself is a UN legal instrument which is not legally binding.
It has been the Labour majority government from 2020 on which has pushed for an UNDRIP Action Plan - this is an option and NOT an UN obligation, Thus this is a national decision of the Ardern government.

DeeM said...

Another "highly qualified expert" who can't even get the basics right.
More interested in pushing her woke, warped version of history than what actually happened. And she focuses exclusively on her minority ancestry, despite her own name and physical features staring her in the face.

No wonder people are losing faith in modern-day expert opinion, much of which is nothing more than one-eyed, biased story-telling.

Maybe we should feel sorry for Claire, who clearly struggles to accept her own history, let alone that of our country.

Anonymous said...

Charters is driven by two things. Ego and funding.

1. The first enables her to be whatever she wants to be and say whatever she wants to say, true or false.

2. The second is provided by people who beleive the first.

The problem for people like this is that that take no countance of the worm turning and when the worm turns their false statements and outright lies destroy their funding and then their careers.

Good luck Claire when you are declared a false prophet.

A said...

As you say, Claire Charters is an intelligent, highly educated and talented woman. She is not to be underestimated.

I commend your effort in challenging the contents of her article, but it fails to acknowledge the cynical motivation of her argument. Her aim is not honesty, it is a means to an end.

In a paper titled 'Use It or Lose It: The Value of Using the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Maori Political and Legal Claims' (see SSRN) she explains:

"The value of using international norms as a means to increase their compliance pull on states over time, even when they may be resistant to the norms or the norms are not binding, is supported by theories on constructivism, transnational legal process theory and social movement theory. At heart, these theories share the proposition that there are methods to embed norms in the domestic and legal landscape in such a way that states view conformity with them as ordinary and rationally-appropriate behaviour or, conversely, contravention as politically and legally illegitimate. The theories stem from the idea that norm conformity can be achieved not only through legal sanctions or compulsion, but also through the gradual normalisation and acceptance of the legitimacy of norms by the state especially and also the public at large."

This paper was published in 2017 and clearly lays out the strategy she would implement in the He Puapua report two years later.

She employs a line of argument introduced by Carl Schmitt, who famously discredited the legality and legitimacy of the liberal-democratic Weimar Republic. If the sovereignty of the Crown and the Westminster legal system are the status quo, then there can be no doubt that the end goal of “breaking of the usual political and societal norms and approaches” is neither liberal nor democratic.

Anonymous said...

And, not only does she not get the name of our country correct, for all her purported expertise she can't even identify people that are truly "indigenous".

What a charlatan!

And at least our PM has an excuse for not being able to define a woman - for he has no degree in anatomy, biology or genetics, but Charters... she's not only incompetent given the above, she clearly hasn't even read UNDRIP to it's conclusion, for where does she address its Article 46?

"False prophet" is too kind - fraudster, more like!

Anonymous said...

Nothing to see here KEY said as 'under the cover of darkness' he sent Sharples off to sign a completely 'harmless non binding UNDRIP'. What a patriot.

David Lillis said...

I have to agree with Roger Childs. I wrote a similar piece a few weeks ago:


mudbayripper said...

Claire Charters is a walking contradiction, who incidentally was born in Australia.

CXH said...

'Claire is from Ngati Whakaue, Tuwharetoa, Nga Puhi and Tainui.' Strange how there is a growing number of full blooded Maori these days.

RogerF said...

If Claire Charters was born in Australia then she is more than likely to be a descendant of the Charters family
who emigrated to Australia in 1854 following the First Fleets of convicts, tradespeople and early settlers.
The surname Charters according to Ancestry is of Scottish (Kirkcudbrightshire) and northern English origin but is derived from the geographical locality.of Chartres in France.
Why does Ms Charters only use her Maori DNA 'Ngati Whakaue, Tuwharetoa, Nga Puhi and Tainui' when it is apparent that a large amount of the blood flowing through her veins can be attributed to the fact that she is a European (Pakeha) like the majority of New Zealand 'settlers'.

RogerF said...

In response to Boudicca.
And what is your point?

Anonymous said...

@mudbayripper, I think you may be mistaking her with the other of her ilk, Jacinta Ruru. The pair of them have nothing ever good to say about the country, people and colonial system that have made their present existence very comfortable - very comfortable, indeed.

It's a real pity they both can't be transported back in time to the bs Aotearoa-Utopia they espouse. Then they might fully appreciate their current lives, compared with the deprivation, depravity, slavery and general tyranny that then prevailed.

To paraphrase the current Labour slogan - "In it for themselves" and way more than snout deep!

Anonymous said...

Maori will proudly tell you who, when, where, and how their forebears arrived in NZ - around 1350 AD.
In their minds and logic, that makes them indigenous.

By the same logic, all Frenchmen are therefore indigenous to England, as they also know who, when , where and how their forebears arrived in England in 1066 - some 300 years before Maori arrived in NZ.
Maori are not indigenous to NZ - it has been proven conclusively from their DNA that their origin was around Taiwan.

mudbayripper said...

Apologies anonymous, I seem to be getting my racist hypocritical, activists mixed up. Your description of these enemies of the state is absolutely correct.

Doug Longmire said...

I deal in FACTS. Facts that have been established by challenged, scientific research. Here are some facts:-

Indigenous. Maori are not indigenous to this country (New Zealand).
They arrived here about 600 years ago, having travelled from the Pacific Islands in canoes. The Maori still have a plaque in northland celebrating their “homeland” of Hawaiki.
Their current DNA shows, as does historical research, that they were indigenous to Taiwan, and travelled from there down thousands of years ago through Melanesia to eventually settle in (colonize) the Pacific Islands in Polynesia.
It was from there, after many centuries, various tribes travelled (once again) to this country, bringing with them the Polynesian rat and the South American Kumara and moved here slaughtering ,raping and cannibalizing the current occupants (Moriori). When they arrived here, they encountered many truly indigenous occupants such as Moa, Kiwi, Haast Eagle, etc.

Maori” indingenuity” is clearly not to New Zealand.

I note that there are no claims that the rat or kumara are "indigenous" to New Zealand.

Anonymous said...

I wanted to understand Matariki - when I did, I realised it's Solsitce which is celebrated all over the world.
The Matariki Stars are the constellation of Orion which depicts the turning of the Earth back towards the Sun, and with the coming seasons it's time to observe, plan and execute the planting of the next harvest.
Of course, it's beholding to show gratitude but this is not uniquely Māori, it's Earthly.

Don said...

Charters reveals an interesting array of tribal forebears. Ngapuhi and tuwharetoa were deadly enemies so one wonders which were the conquerors and which the defeated in her provenance, or which the rapist and which the victim. This was called, in my school days, "the conquering tribe took the women of the defeated tribe to wife."
Charters reminds me of a comment of an elderly and wise uncle:
" some of the most stupid people I have met have university degrees."