Treaty basis of unity and a shared future

By Tariana Turia

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Over the course of this year, Te Tiriti o Waitangi has been occupying much of the political agenda.

We have been progressing at pace with historical claims as more and more treaty settlement bills are being moved through Parliament.

We have seen the rise and rise of contemporary claims such as the flora and fauna case, spectrum, and the now infamous claim to water rights, and of course we have the constitutional review currently underway to examine the role of Te Tiriti o Waitangi in the context of how our country is run.

Considering the magnitude of these issues, it was with some surprise that our Maori Party Bill on Oaths and Declarations, which would provide MPs with the option of swearing allegiance to Te Tiriti o Waitangi, was voted down in Parliament last week.

It was a relatively small step to take to allow us as MPs to swear an oath to uphold the treaty.

It is, after all, the basis of the relationship between tangata whenua and the Crown.

We were extremely disheartened by this outcome, and we were particularly disappointed in our National Party colleagues, who entered into a relationship accord with us stating their commitment to Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

Some MPs cited respect for the Queen as their reasoning for a "no" vote, which is interesting considering the Treaty is about the relationship with the Crown. Some said it was a separatist move, and others said it was putting the cart before the horse.

I disagree, and while politicians may rationalise their votes however they please, it is disappointing to see how some individuals will misinterpret the value and meaning of te tiriti.

Issues like this really test your belief in the system and make you question why we are here.

I was reminded, however, that as long as the candle of hope burns, there is always meaning in the work that we do and a reason to keep going.

It is about our perspective and how we look at things, and I think this is a clear example of how changing our views could make a world of difference.

The promise of te tiriti was not one of on-going conflict.

It was one of unity and of respect.

It is the earliest relationship accord that outlined how tangata whenua and the Crown would treat each other moving forward into the future.

We should not shy away from the treaty. Instead we should celebrate it as a basis of unity. As New Zealanders, we should be proud of our treaty heritage. It is a point of difference that belongs to us as a nation, and we should actively look at ways to promote it and extend it.

The conflict that we have seen in recent years has arisen from the bewilderment of tangata whenua at the breaking of the promises within this treaty.

We cannot take back a history of injustice, but we can look into the future and work towards a shared goal of unity and peace.

It starts with building a basis of respect and a shared aspiration of wanting to build better relationships in the future.

Unity is not about having one view; it is about having a shared goal and working towards it in ways that account for and acknowledge diversity.

The treaty is not something that we should play politics with, because it is more than just a symbolic gesture.

It is a contract between two peoples and is the foundation of our nationhood.

No one ever went blind from looking at the brighter side of life.

Perhaps if we did this and viewed the treaty as a positive thing that deserved to be preserved and celebrated, we could see the change that we seek in this world.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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