People up and down New Zealand commemorated Waitangi Day in very different ways.
Tensions rose in Waitangi on Monday when elected officials took to the stage to deliver their speeches about unity and togetherness. There are plenty of critics who are of the view that government policies don’t align with the rhetoric.
In Gladstone, hundreds of people – Māori and non-Māori – came together at Hurunui-o-Rangi Marae to celebrate the day with music and kai [food].
The experience at Hurunui-o-Rangi was filled with manaakitanga and whanaungatanga, while reports from up north suggested that things may have been less than cordial with our Prime Minister and his deputies.
In true Winston Peters style, he berated the crowd for voicing their discontent and took to making cheap shots at their level of respect, education, and manners.
“Let me tell you sunshine, I used to go to the marae where they had a thing called tikanga and protocol and respect,” Peters said.
Yes, marae are places where things like tikanga, protocol, and respect are honoured traditions.
Still, there has rarely been a time when such a divisive political landscape has come onto the ātea [front of the marae].
Note that I say rarely, because there have been times when a pōwhiri hasn’t gone to plan, and this is not to say anything about the content of the speeches themselves, but perhaps the timing and locale could have been better placed.
Some may use Waitangi Day to take that much-needed break from the daily grind of work, while others have also used it as a solemn day of remembrance to acknowledge the history of this land.
But Waitangi Day is about remembering a moment in time when and where our ancestors signed the Treaty.
Regardless of the goings on within the Beehive, around the country or worldwide, Waitangi Day brings people together.
For comparison, we need look no further than to our western neighbours.
Australia has ‘celebrated’ Australia Day for decades, but First Nations and Indigenous people of Australia have not had a treaty – instead, they got an apology hundreds of years after colonisation.
While apologies can go a long way to make up for the past, Australians have decried the celebration of Australia Day, and some have even gone so far as to refer to it only as ‘Invasion Day’.
Even big corporations such as Woolworths Australia have recognised the history and now refuse to stock Australia Day merchandise as they once did.
We find ourselves in a position where history has not been kind, and it is up to us, here and now, to redefine the legacy left for our tamariki [children] and mokopuna [grandchildren/descendants].
Without being too critical of our Australian whānau, we can count ourselves lucky for the day when our unification is celebrated.
Regardless of your beliefs about sovereignty or politics, to fill a day with so much aroha [love] and respect is something special that not all Indigenous people worldwide will get to experience.
There are some big topics and big questions that will come with the always-evolving political climate in this country.
Still, it is worth remembering the kaupapa behind Waitangi Day, which is to come together and commemorate Te Tiriti o Waitangi – signed by more than500 Māori chiefs and representatives of the Crown in 1840.