The Māori privilege debate continues to do the rounds.
Over recent years, as I have become more involved in my own tribal activities, it irks me that many communities still cannot get a grasp of the place of mana whenua within the wider community.
This was best played out in my community last year during the New Plymouth District Council Māori Wards referendum that went to the vote, and was resoundingly voted against by 83% of the wider community.
The online and letters-to-the-editor rhetoric in the local Taranaki Daily News reminded me of the 1950s and 60s’, “We need to watch out for these uppity Māori”. And, amidst the usual diatribe came the, “Why should Māori get special treatment?”, and other Māori-privilege comments.
It made me think, are Treaty of Waitangi workshops and cultural responsiveness programmes really hitting the mark at a school level, let alone amongst our wider society? Are they getting us to a place of really seeing Māori as tangata whenua, as mana whenua? It has been 40 years since the beginning of the Māori renaissance of the early 70s — why are we still grappling with these treaty issues? I often think and publically announce that we have come a long way in those 40 years of Kōhanga Reo, Kura Kaupapa, Māori Radio, and TV, treaty settlements, but still 83% of my community said No to Māori representation.
And that is the crux of what the Treaty means for us as Māori. Māori are tangata whenua, one of the treaty partner’s, though some people still want to dispute that. That partnership gives Māori mana whenua rights and responsibilities. We are not just another member of our multi-cultural society. For Māori, this is our homeland, the only place we can speak our language — an official language — since 1986. The only place we can live our cultural beliefs, to just be Māori. Other cultures can return to their homeland to speak their language, to live within their culture.