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Apology a mana-building moment

By Gerald Ford

It’s difficult as a Pakeha to feel qualified to comment on the historic signing of the Treaty of Waitangi Deed of Settlement with the Crown signed by Rangitane o Wairarapa and Rangitane o Tamaki nui-a-Rua on Saturday.

But the signing is of some significance and I am of the view that what is good for Maori is good for the whole community.

The $32.5 million includes sites of cultural significance and some of potential commercial value, such as the former Lansdowne School site in Masterton, and there is the option to purchase parts of Ngaumu forest.

As the Crown apology was read, some wept.

Rangitane iwi leader Manahi Paewai of Dannevirke said Rangitane was “wiped from the tribal landscape of Aotearoa and by the 1900s we were virtually landless and the worst of implication of that early injustive was that many or our own still don’t know, or believe, they are Rangitane”.

This is the essence of cultural dislocation – a generational loss of identity.

The very nature of culture is quite difficult to understand for your average pakeha New Zealander, if such a creature exists.

I remember a speaker once describing it as trying to explain to a fish what “wet” is. The point is we don’t understand our own culture because we live in it.

New Zealand culture outside of Maoridom has always been difficult to define because it is so young.

It is both connected to the lands from which we came across the sea, and disconnected from it.

We don’t even have our own word for ourselves – Pakeha is borrowed, but it fills a linguistic gap.

Seeing Maori as a strong people with a culture of their own, independent of ours, challenges us.

I don’t know why that is, but it is.

If I had a dollar for every time I heard the phrase “We are all New Zealanders” – in a defensive, half-offended tone, I am sure I would be a rich man – or at least be able buy myself a nice restaurant meal.

Mr Paewai, in a story written by Christine McKay of Dannevirke News, reprinted in the Wairarapa Times-Age,

described the Crown apology as “mana-enhancing”.

It is interesting that the financial value of the settlement, surely a drop in the bucket to what was lost, paled in emotional significance to the simple acknowledgement to the Rangitane iwi that yes, you are a people, and you yes, you were wronged.

I will not let my own cultural dislocation make me begrudge a significant cultural milestone for my neighbours.

Who knows – perhaps if we Pakeha better embraced and attempted to understand the Treaty of Waitangi, we might gain a stronger sense of our own identity and place in this land.

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