A Māori leader has issued a challenge to Māori and Pakeha to engage deeply with each other, the land and environment to create a new tangata whenua.
Te Ahukaramu Charles Royal says in terms of an identity of tomorrow, New Zealanders are caring people, aspiring to care for one another and maintaining a sense of fairness in mutual relationships.
‘I also like to think that we care deeply for these islands that we call our home. We cherish our natural environments, our mountains, our waterways, our indigenous flora and fauna and I think there is a real interest in our people to be a caring and responsible nation.’
He spoke of a new view of tangata whenua as ‘a vision for humanity in which we all may share and participate in, regardless of ethnicity, culture, gender and religion’.
He called on Māori to deeply engage with what it means to be tangata whenua.
‘Can we really say we are “people of the land” now? Are we not spoiling the earth and her resources just like everybody else?’
And he suggests that for non-Māori New Zealanders, particularly Pakeha, ‘being tangata whenua will entail a deep engagement with our past’, its relationship with the land and the ritualising of this relationship.
Dr Royal said the terms ‘Māori’ and ‘Pakeh%u0101a mean little in this land of increasing diversity.
Believing that a negative battle has been going on since the middle of the 19th century as a result of colonisation, he prefers to think of the debate more creatively as an interraction between tino rangatiratanga and kawanatanga.
‘I think we can agree that the 1840 representatives of tino rangatiratanga saw it as a dynamic, influential and evolving feature of these islands.’
Dr Royal says, because the Treaty was the pre-eminent cultural and organising feature of life at the time, it held jurisdiction over all who lived in these islands, not just iwi and hapu members.
‘I prefer to think about the Treaty as a relationship between tino rangatiratanga and kawanatanga as I find these terms more meaningful than Māori and Pakeha.
‘Secondly, I hope that we can begin to relate to the Treaty as a creative intersection between tino rangatiratanga and kawanatanga rather than as a competing and traumatised relationship such as we have been accustomed to.’
In explaining this thesis, Dr Royal said many tribes whose ancestors signed the Treaty think of it as an agreement between the British crown and iwi and hapu before any relationship developed between the New Zealand government and Māori. ‘Māori’ was a word coined to describe the indigenous peoples.
‘It is not too much to suggest that those iwi that were in conflict with my Ngati Raukawa ancestors at the beginning of the 19th century would be quite unhappy to be lumped into a group called “Māori”, a group which included my ancestors!
‘I think conflicting rangatira of the time signed the Treaty not so much because they felt that they were all “Māori” but rather they believed that the Treaty recognised their rangatiratanga.’
He says now that Māori are more confident in their culture after several decades of cultural repatriation, there is a growing ease between Māori and Pakeha.
‘I can attest to this from personal experience. Now that I am older—and that I speak the Māori language, have an understanding of my whakapapa, and am able to participate and at times lead initiatives within my iwi—I find myself less anxious and concerned to defend my Māori identity.
‘I feel more at ease to regard myself culturally as Pakeha, too, understanding that embracing my Pakeha heritage does not necessarily mean a diminishment of my Māori identity.’
He is looking for some identity words that express ‘who we actually are, what we stand for and the values we hold, particularly in the New Zealand of tomorrow’.
When considering an identity for tomorrow, Dr Royal suggested that a new tangata whenua might come from New Zealanders’ shared concern for one another and for fairness in our relationships, and for our natural environments, mountains, waterways, indigenous flora and fauna.
He proposes that tangata whenua might be an Aotearoa-New Zealand cultural movement upholding these ideals.