Hone Harawira: Paul Holmes, Maori have plenty to protest

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Protest is as much a part of Waitangi as the waka. Photo / Natalie Slade
Protest is as much a part of Waitangi as the waka. Photo / Natalie Slade

Paul Holmes' column in Saturday's Weekend Herald was a nasty article from somebody who must have known it would hurt a lot of people. It was mean and mean-spirited. It was deliberately offensive and uncaring, and though he might claim that it was written to spark debate, at the end of the day it was just mean and nasty.

The way he writes it, Maori have no right to protest on Waitangi Day. We should be full of happy, happy, joy, joy.

"You know what I mean Hori - like back in the 60s when you Maoris were all so happy! Remember? When you could all play the guitar, and you all sang in such beautiful harmony, and smiled a lot, and drove trucks and bulldozers, and nobody talked about the Treaty, and none of you ever complained about anything. Why can't you be like that again?"

Well ... the world has moved on quite a bit since those days, but one thing that hasn't changed that much is protest, and in case you didn't know it Mr Holmes, Maori have been protesting at Waitangi for quite some time.

Yes, there were protests at Waitangi this year, but did you know Mr Holmes, that there were protests at Waitangi in 1840 ... before they even signed the Treaty!

What? What on earth could they have had to protest about back then, I hear you say?

Well, a lot of our tupuna seriously doubted that the Governor and his cronies could be trusted, that's why. Ring a bell, Mr Holmes?

And quite a lot of them thought that Pakeha just wanted to steal our land.

And they didn't think a treaty would stop untrustworthy Pakeha traders from pushing gut-rot alcohol into Maori communities.

And they didn't think a treaty could make dirty, stinking, Pakeha whalers, sailors, thieves and brigands wash more than three times a year.

And some of my tupuna didn't like the nasty way that early Europeans treated Maori kids - you know, telling them to get out of the way, telling them to shut up, hitting them ...

And some of them were protesting because they thought that Pakeha only wanted a treaty to stall for time while they brought their military in to steal what they couldn't get honestly. Ring a bell Mr Holmes?

You see Mr Holmes, back in 1840, Maori owned the whole of Aotearoa, and although life wasn't exactly a bunch of roses, we had strong and vibrant societies dotted all round the country, until you guys introduced the gun, the Bible and the pox of course, and wreaked havoc and devastation like we'd never seen before.

So perhaps you can understand, Mr Holmes, that 172 years ago Maori weren't exactly jumping for joy at the prospect of signing a deal with an empire that had already signed and broken treaties all around the world.

But we did, and the record suggests that our tupuna did so for all the right reasons - to protect their lands and their forests and their rivers and their resources, and to provide a solid future for their mokopuna.

But things didn't quite work out that way did they? That's why we have a Treaty settlement process, with all its flaws and its failings and expectations, on both sides.

But Mr Holmes, did you know that iwi must accept that their Treaty settlements are full and final even though they're not even allowed to claim land that was actually stolen?

And can you explain why the Government is okay bailing out a failed (Pakeha) finance company down south to the tune of $1.7 billion, but doesn't want to pay Maori more than $1.4 billion for 63 million acres of dubiously acquired land and resources worth tens of billions of dollars?

When you stack the facts up like that, it's not hard to see that there's not a lot to make Maori want to smile and clap is there Mr Holmes?

And yes, life isn't just about the Treaty (even though your article was all about Waitangi Day).

Maori are also part of the broader fabric of our society. But did you know Mr Holmes, that in terms of health, welfare, education, employment, housing and justice, Maori statistics are still worse than everyone else in the country?

Not exactly something to wave pom-poms at is it? Those are just the facts Mr Holmes, but Waitangi Day is more than just facts.

So I'd also like you to know that along with a whole lot of other people (Maori and Pakeha), I enjoy going to Waitangi every year.

I enjoy the company, I enjoy the politics (both the Maori stuff and the Pakeha stuff), I enjoy the banter, I enjoy the people (both Maori and Pakeha), I enjoy having the kuia tell me they love me even when they're telling me off, I enjoy watching the kids playing sport, I enjoy the kapa haka groups, I enjoy the kai, I enjoy the march up to the top marae, I enjoy the church service, I enjoy seeing people I haven't seen in a while, I enjoy the occasion ... and yes Mr Holmes, I even enjoy the protest, because protest is every bit a part of Waitangi as anything else.

Waitangi Day is our National Day Mr Holmes. It is rightly commemorated in many different ways in many different parts of the country, but it was at Waitangi that a group of people chose to sign a Treaty that was to be the foundation of our nation, and it is to Waitangi that we rightly return every year to see how well we're doing.

It's not always going to be strawberries and cream, but it will always be a part of who we are.

Maybe I'll see you up there next year, Mr Holmes.

* MP Hone Harawira is the leader of the Mana Party.


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