L-R: Jason Ruakere, Teanau Tuiono, Anaru White, Shannon Vulu
The one and only time I had previously seen Waitangi was in a passing drive-by. Moana Timoko, a fellow CORE facilitator, showed me what Waitangi looked like under the cover of darkness. We drove past the night before a professional learning event at Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Kaikohe. I would later find out that we had driven past Te Ti Marae and Tau Rangatira, before approaching the bridge on the other side.
When I actually set foot on Waitangi Treaty Grounds, it was for the last whānau hui with Wharehoka Wano before assuming his new role as iwi manager in Taranaki for Te Atiawa. I guess, in some small part, this blog post serves as a tribute to him for his inspiration to me as a contemporary Māori leader who now returns to his community to serve the needs of his people. He will be missed at Tātai Aho Rau — CORE Education.
I have written about Pasifika connections with Māori in two previous blog posts — Pasifika in Parihaka and Pasifika’s position in honouring the bi-cultural Te Tiriti partnership. I see this blog post as a culmination of the learning from these previous posts, reflecting on my understandings of Pasifika connections in the context of actually visiting Waitangi in the flesh. As a Pasifika person in Aotearoa, because I am conscious of being staunch in my own Samoan culture, it helps me to understand and value what it means to be Māori in Aotearoa. The events that have unfolded since the signing of Te Tiriti o Waitangi have leaned itself more to Pākeha benefitting from the agreement, whereas Māori have continually tried to regain tino rangatiratanga.
Before we went to Waitangi, a group of us visited Russell Kororareka, ‘the hell hole of the Pacific’ (the catch phrase plastered all over the island) to take note of the settlement. The Māori settlement quickly gained notoriety when prostitution arrived in the area, together with the whaling trade and new settlers. Busby had originally planned to have the town of Victoria built, but these plans were later scrapped when the capital city was moved.