We say Merry Christmas; we wish a Happy New Year; we might even wish our friends “a great long weekend.” I’ve heard friends say things like “Happy Australia Day!” and “Happy 4th of July!” So how come nobody ever says “Happy Waitangi Day”?
You’d think we would. There are many worse places on the planet to to wake up, and few better. And the symbol this day commemorates, the only day we actually do celebrate the birth of this great little country, played some part in its creation.
It put a stop (for a time) to never-ending inter-tribal warfare.
It brought liberty, peace and rule of law – and not the French absolutist law that might have arrived here, but British common law and the protection of property rights it promised, and often (at one time) delivered.
Sure, the missionaries of the Aborigines’ Protection Society (Reverend Montague Hawtrey prominent in their number) altruistically thought that Maori, already demonstrating their abundant entrepreneurial acumen, needed to be “saved from the impact of commerce.” Hence we saw in the Treaty we commemorate today a nannying clause barring land sales except through the agency of the Crown --- the cause of many a problem up to this day.
And those same meddlers also wanted the British class system exported here, and so (conscious that the American and Australian frontiers had liberated non-aristocratic lives), wanted to limit the land available to emigrating labourers here by opposing individual Maori title, and encouraging instead the retention of collective tribal ownership and “aristocratic” tribal leaders. The reason, said Hawtrey, was that there had to be “a class of persons in the island, who, by common consent and prescriptive right hold a position of eminence above the others.”
To reverse Thomas Jefferson’s famous maxim, through the influence of the likes of Hawtrey’s Society, they sought through these two means (and the inculcation of Christian mysticism) to create a mass of native-kind born with saddles on their backs, with a favoured few booted and spurred to ride them legitimately, by the grace of this new Treaty.
It was a poison (still with us) that undercut much of the good the Treaty was otherwise to do.
- Maori were protected *from* property rights, suggests recent book
- “Free at last!”
- How did colonists’ treatment of indigenous people help cause today’s tribalism
- Q: What do Waitangi and Kohimarama have in common?
- It’s NZ’s own Emancipation Proclamation!
- Waitangi Day: Something to celebrate
- Why does Waitangi Day belong to one race?
- Why not celebrate One-Law-For-All Day instead?