|Ka tangi te tītī||The mutton bird cries|
|Ka tangi te kākā||The parrot cries|
|Ka tangi hoki ahau||I also cry|
|Tihei mauri ora||Behold there is life|
Every year New Zealand celebrates The Treaty, but how well do we as teachers help our young people understand it more deeply? As a teacher how are you planning to help your students with this? I remember vividly my fifth form social studies teacher announced to the class, “Oh, we’ll leave The Treaty this year because it is too hard to teach.” How many teachers feel this way and place The Treaty in the ‘too hard basket’? My advice to teachers would be to start small and give it go; after all our children deserve to learn about New Zealand’s past.
As a starting point, learning to say your students’ and local place names correctly is important as it acknowledges and values their mana, prestige and who they are.
Find out about the personal stories of the young people in your class, from their families’ experiences. When you are ready, make contact with your local community by finding out about the histories of the area.
As the birds cry in the whakataukī above, I silently cry inside at the hurt and unhealed wounds that lay buried with my tīpuna; I cry silently when year after year a huge percentage of Māori children are failing in the education system. My heart sinks when I see the statistics of Māori fill the prison cells. I believe that if we continue to do and think the same as we have done, we will continue to get the same result.
In this blog I give a personal perspective on real life stories of the impact of The Treaty and subsequent government actions. The graphic below shows the extent of Māori land that was confiscated after The Treaty. With the confiscation, not only was land lost, but so was the language and mana of the people. Toi tū te kupu, toi tū te whenua, toi tū te mana.
My Personal Story
Let me tell you my story. I hail from the Wairarapa in Masterton. My mother Hilary Payton died when I was two. She was born in Carterton into a wealthy, English farming family. My mum fell in love with my dad Lawrence Reiri, from Gladstone, Te Whiti a shearer who dropped out of school to help provide for his family.
This story of two cultures coming together is not an uncommon one. It represents a rich culture and heritage that our country has been founded on. The point of difference was that my mother’s parents and grandmother had high expectations for my mother. They were extremely disappointed because she was an intelligent lady who had a bright future ahead of her. It is sad to assume that racism and stereotypes associated with being Māori were the reason for the disconnection between my mother and her family.
I would like to share a couple of stories about my Wairarapa tīpuna. This is my nanny Meri Kiriwera Namana, my nanny’s nanny. Her husband died during the flu epidemic, leaving her a widow with ten children. At that time most Māori owned their land, however the Native Land Act 1862 stated Pākehā farmers were not allowed to pay monies to lease Māori land. In addition, excessive local rates were introduced with a higher rate for Māori. Meri Kiriwera Namana was forced to sell her land so she could provide for her children. This happened to many Māori farmers in the early 19th century. Bruce (1885)1 explains the benefits of the Native Land Act as "An ingenious method of destroying the whole Māori race than by those land courts".
Hoani Te Whatahoro Jury *
This is my tīpuna Whatahoro Jury. He was a child of The Treaty. In fact, he was given an education scholarship from Sir Governor Grey to be raised as a bi-literate child. Whatahoro became a humble scribe to many Kahungunu tohunga like Te Matorohanga. Today, the government still has around 250 manuscripts of his writings. In 1907 the Tohunga Suppression Act was introduced, and as a result of this policy many traditional practices like ‘pure and tohi’ (rituals) were stopped. When tohungatanga stopped, so did certain karakia, language, practices and old knowledge that will never be able to be recovered. My tīpuna were threatened with fines or jail if they were caught participating in any supernatural or spiritual practices.
Kahungunu signing ownership of Lake Wairarapa to the Crown *
My tīpuna Piripi Te Maari was adamant, ‘Māori were not to sell their land!’ Within six months of his death, Lake Wairarapa was’gifted’, and neighbouring land all over the Wairarapa was sold as settlers ‘flocked’ in. The land was sold to the government at market rate of $1 for 30 acres. The Advances to Settlers Act was introduced to speed up the process of selling land at a low interest rate made available only to white settlers.
In conclusion, Whytangi? Wai cry about the Treaty of Waitangi? I believe Māori cry because The Treaty principles to act reasonably, be given equal opportunities, and protect our taonga (treasures), was a Treaty that did the exact opposite. It is a Treaty of broken promises and social injustices. Do I think we should move on? Yes! The ‘how’ part depends on every single one of us here in Aotearoa, this place called New Zealand, the place all our ancestors sailed to in hope of a better life. I believe we need to educate our people and children about what really happened, to realise many of the disparities for Māori today are linked to The Treaty, The Acts and land confiscations.
What happened in the Wairarapa is just one example of what took place historically around the entire country post-treaty. We cannot reclaim all that was lost, however, as a collective we can restore mana (prestige) to the land, the language, people and their whakapapa. I hope The Treaty will no longer be placed in the ‘too hard basket’ in the classroom but will be a time of restoring through education. There is a saying in Māori ‘Ahakoa he iti, he pounamu’, which emphasises that even though your contribution is small, it is a greenstone; it is precious.
Here are a few more tips for teachers and helpful resources:
- TUAKIRITANGA: Respect the identity of every child in your classroom. Support the children in your class by making connections to where they come from. If they are confident in their knowledge of one side of the family, then challenge them to explore another branch. Then make connections to the local area and school.
- WHAKAHUATIA TE REO KIA TIKA: Pronunciation of childrens’ names is so important. It is important not to shorten or change children’s names because you cannot say them. Ask the children in your class what name they would like to be known by? If you have to wonder whether you have correct pronunciation, you probably don’t, so ask someone who can help you. Homework could be another avenue to explore ‘What is in a name’? and see what wonderful stories follow.
- WHAKAWHANAUNGATANGA: Build strong relationships and make connections to people and places.
Build relationships with your local iwi, hapū, marae, kuia and kaumatua — they all have lovely stories to share. Take your tamariki to local significant places so they can experience these for themselves.
- Cultural Competencies for Teachers of Māori Learners
- Hautu: Cultural Responsiveness Self Review Tool for Boards of Trustees
- New Zealand History online
- NZSTA: The Treaty of Waitangi and School Governance
- Tama iti – Mana:The power in knowing who you are
- The New Zealand Curriculum Treaty principle
- Te Tiriti Blog
- Treaty of Waitangi What really happened?
Awa — river
Hui — meeting
Mana — prestige, authority, control, power, influence, status, spiritual power, charisma
Pure — ceremony to remove tapu
Tīpuna — ancestor
Tangi — cry
Taonga — treasure
Tohi — ritual to bless babies
Tohunga — leader of spirituality
Turangawaewae — one’s place of feet connected to the land
Wai — water
Whakatauki — proverb
* Photo credits: Published with permission from the Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.
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