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What about us? Why the Treaty Should not be considered the founding document of Aotearoa New Zealand

By Hemopereki Simon

Before you start sending me hate mail comparing me to Dr. Don Brash, David Round or any other figure that writers for the Alternate Right in this country please hear me out. The purpose for writing this blog is that Linda Tuhiwai Smith calls on us as Kaupapa Maori Researchers to ‘translate’ our mahi.[1] It is also a response to Linda’s call to “dewackify the world.” For the past few years I have been doing a lot of work on mana motuhake and it relationship to the ‘White Possessive State’ more politely known as ‘the Crown.’

Back in 2017 I published a journal article in Te Kaharoa entitled, “Te Arewhana Kei Roto i Te Rūma: An Indigenous Neo-Disputatio on Settler Society, Nullifying Te Tiriti, ‘Natural Resources’ and Our Collective Future in Aotearoa New Zealand.” It was labelled by the Maori-famous activist and lawyer, Annette Sykes as, “The new discourse on the Treaty of Waitangi.”[2] In the article I charge academics with helping the Crown perpetuate the myths surrounding the treaty over the past forty years.[3] Things like we are a treaty people. Reality – We are not. The Report for stage one of The Te Paparahi o Te Raki Inquiry proves this that voices from the hau kainga ha been/are being drowned out in the treaty discourse which is trying to assert Hobson’s myth of ‘He Iwi Kotahi Tatou.” It is either this or because of the exclusion for generations because we were best off being carpenters or domestic servants the academic infrastructure to give raise to our voices as hapu and iwi has not existed. Enter the 2nd generation of Kaupapa Maori researchers like myself.

My work is for the purposes of academia a radical new departure from the usual treaty arguments that fight over the position of tino rangatiratanga and the provisioning of rights to We (in this case Tuwharetoa) didn’t sign anything; therefore still maintain mana motuhake. I outline how the sovereignty of the white possessive state could be considered non-existent or at least questionable for if sovereignty of the White Possessive State does exist and if it does it does so through illegal or morally questionable acts.[4] In the case of Tuwharetoa this would be by invasion when the white possessive state chased Te Kooti, set up shop and now occupy our rohe. However, according to the government-led conversation we consistently hear the catch-cry: Maori signed the Treaty!

So why not say: “The Treaty is The Founding document?”

[T]he conventional government-led conversation in Aotearoa New Zealand about Te Tiriti being the country’s foundational document is highly questionable. It should only be seen as the document used to validate a claim to white patriarchal sovereignty by the state. This is seen in the way in which the judiciary has changed the meaning of Te Tiriti over time, through the cases brought before it.[5] The conversation about Te Tiriti being the foundational document of Aotearoa New Zealand ranks equally as bad as the other myth that Aotearoa New Zealand has the best race relations in the world.[6] When you say the Treaty is the founding document you are actually doing a disservice to your own people. You are saying that the mana of your hapu and iwi is which was inherited from your tupuna is non-existent. For the sovereignty of the white possessive state to exist mana, and in particular mana motuhake, would have to have needed to be extinguished or handed over which in terms of tikanga is an impossibility. Therefore, the Treaty should only be seen as the way in which the white possessive state consistently trying to assert its assumption of sovereignty.

The moving shift of my mahi is the new phrase, “non-signatory hapu and iwi.” This is important because not just Tuwharetoa did not sign the Treaty. It extends to Te Arawa, Tainui, Tauranga Moana Iwi, Poutini Ngai Tahu and others. By saying it is a foundational document ignores these iwi’s histories and lived experiences. It says to them that they do not matter. The only thing that matters is the verification of the white possessive state known as “New Zealand” and its ability to wield white patriarchal sovereignty and its power. We must remember that in terms of non-signatory hapu and iwi that a right of British paternalism was plastered upon us and for the South Island a declaration of terra nullius was enacted which means for iwi like Ngati Koata, for example, are technically seen by the white possessive state to be less then human incapable of being people; at least to a European standard. Basically every time we say the Treaty is the foundational document we are saying to ourselves that we as iwi are incapable of governing ourselves and our homelands because this is the message the white possessive state gives every time it declares its white patriarchal sovereignty or says things like we own the geothermal/gas/oil/water resources. We are allowing ourselves to sunbathe in a racist white possessive logic.

We must remember and accept that paternalism and suppression has been a key feature of government in Aotearoa New Zealand and this should not be allowed to continue. Until this is achieved and racism removed as the basis of law in this country, Te Tiriti and/or DRIP as they are written (without the interpretation of the treaty principles) need to remain in place as minimal safeguards against the state’s possessiveness.[7] I assert in my work that in terms of apologies in Treaty settlement:

This approach is steeped in western and most of all Christian ethos of forgiveness. It also highlights the racism as a ‘term of art’ as suggested in Johnson v McIntosh around the European monarch conquering Indigenous people without a ‘just Christian war.’ It is as if the apology is proverbial: ‘yes we did all that; now, let’s all join hands and sing kumbya’. Clearly, a white possessive logic is at play here: civilisation arrived in the form of Britishness and additionally, Christ... are you not grateful? The fundamental problem here is that the state hopes to look virtuous without highlighting there is no recognition of mana motuhake and the traditional constitutional values of hapu and iwi. The state wishes to maintain itself as ‘sovereign’ and continue its acts undisturbed and not dealing with the real issue which is about equitable sharing of power with hapū and iwi or recognition of mana.[8]

For we must recognise that a piece of paper does not provide the white possesive state with sovereignty administrative practice or the exercising of ill-gotten power does.[9]

For, if we agree there is a collective future for all who live in Aotearoa New Zealand then Pākehā New Zealand must learn to integrate into a collective where their privilege and assumptions are nullified and tested. They must become more accepting of ways that are not imported or tethered to Britishness, ways that serve us equitably as a collective.[10]

Finally, white patriarchal sovereignty, possessiveness and society must not be defended. Neither should Indigenous peoples be seen as internal enemies of the state and civilisation, as suggested by Foucault, which is created by the existence of racism. We are an integral part of the collective future of Aotearoa New Zealand. For when we assert our Maoritanga and our mana we as Maori researchers and Maori in general are questioned as to where our loyalties lie? Or looks that question why are we disrupting the ‘social harmony’ of the white possessive social construction of the white possessive state labelled ‘New Zealand?’ We as Maori have a role to play in the future of this land, we always have, every time there is a declaration of sovereignty or an assertion of treaty foundation – it prevents us as non-signatory hapu, iwi, and Maori taking our rightful place and for us to have a truly meaningful conversation with the coloniser; towards this end which is to share power equitably. To this end, the famous question posed by Justice Eddie Durie is the wrong question: when will the settler settle? The relevant question here is this: when will the settler learn to settle?

Hemopereki Hoani Simon (Tuwharetoa, Te Arawa, Waikato-Tainui, Mataatua, Pare Hauraki) is a interdisciplinary Maori researcher, policy practitioner, indigenous rights activist  decolonisation specialist and doctoral candidate. Simon has a vast amount of research interests. Basing his research methodology and methods in Kaupapa Maori Research the research topics that he writes or speaks about are: Indigenous Sovereignty. Indigenous Human Rights, Constitutional Law, The Treaty of Waitangi, Environmental Planning in New Zealand, Maori Cultural Studies and Issues, Whiteness Studies, Kaupapa Maori Research, Indigenous Philosophy, Indigenous Cultural Appropriation, and Maori Performing Arts. He holds a Bachelor of Maori and Pacific Development in Economics and Development Studies with a Bachelor of Arts (honours) in Maori Studies from Waikato University and a research masters from Massey University. He is currently based in Taupo.

[1] Linda Tuhiwai Smith (2018). “The Art of the Impossible: Defining and Measuring Indigenous Research?” In Marc Spooner and James McNich Dissident Knowledge in Higher Education. Regina: University of Regina Press.

[2] Personal Communication

[3] Hemopereki Simon, Te Arewhana Kei Roto i Te Rūma: An Indigenous Neo-Disputatio on Settler Society, Nullifying Te Tiriti, ‘Natural Resources’ and Our Collective Future in Aotearoa New Zealand. Te Kaharoa 9 (1), https://www.tekaharoa.com/index.php/tekaharoa/article/view/6/4.

[4] Hemopereki Simon, “Te Arewhana Kei Roto i Te Rūma”

[5] Hemopereki Simon, “Te Arewhana Kei Roto i Te Rūma”

[6] Hemopereki Simon, “Te Arewhana Kei Roto i Te Rūma.”

[7] Hemopereki Simon, “Te Arewhana Kei Roto i Te Rūma.”

[8] Hemopereki Simon, “Te Arewhana Kei Roto i Te Rūma.”

[9] Hemopereki Simon, “Te Arewhana Kei Roto i Te Rūma.”

[10] Hemopereki Simon, “Te Arewhana Kei Roto i Te Rūma.”


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