My daughter's husband is a descendant of one of New Zealand's earliest English settlers, the missionary Richard Davis. They have taken their children up north this week, visiting his mission station at Waimate North and other places in their heritage. Today we will all be at Waitangi.
The Rev Davis arrived nearly 200 years ago, 16 years before the Treaty. He saw a place undergoing rapid change, its people discovering a world that had at last discovered theirs, ending centuries of their isolation in an uncharted ocean.
My grandchildren may be too young to have a sense of history yet but not too young, I hope, to be touched by Waitangi. The Treaty ground has a timeless voice. It says something immensely hopeful happened here and we must live up to it.
Within a year or two these kids will be learning their history in school. The Government is acting on the promise it made after the Prime Minister was unable to recall the First Article of the Treaty when asked at Waitangi three years ago.
I was shocked that she could not. We were taught the three articles at primary school in the 1950s and 1960s. Like Jacinda Ardern, my children were at school in the 1980s and 1990s and I'd assumed they were taught the elements of our history too.
The fault probably lies with historians of my generation who rejected a great deal that was handed down to it. Their revision of colonial history must have become too hot for teachers to handle. Schools will be very nervous about the material they must introduce next year.
Just before Christmas the Herald reported the results of a survey conducted by a social studies teacher, Dr Michael Harcourt, who asked students at 20 high schools around the country for their main feeling after reading a passage about the effects of the land wars on Waikato Māori.
The largest number (39 per cent) chose "sadness", followed by anger (11 per cent), frustration (10 per cent), shame (6 per cent), grief, resentment and guilt. Harcourt was reported to have said teachers should be alert to those emotions and actually draw them out.
"Maybe even doing a survey of their students and sharing the results with their students, and making those emotional responses an object of their inquiry," he suggested.
No, please don't. That's exactly the wrong way to study history.
The past is much more than a moral lesson for the present, it's a well of knowledge about things that have happened. Knowing when, how and why they happened is much more important – and interesting – than our "feelings" about those events today.
Putting aside an emotional response is part of the intellectual exercise required in order to understand people of another time, just as putting aside cultural judgments is often necessary to understand people of another place.
A "Draft Aotearoa NZ Histories Curriculum" was released on Wednesday for "public engagement" . It will be good for New Zealand history to be exposed to critical public attention when it becomes part of the compulsory school curriculum next year. The draft prescribes not what must be studied but what lessons must be drawn.
The first of these is that, "Māori history is the foundational and continuous history of Aotearoa New Zealand". That is just not true. To wish it had been true does not make it history.
It is contradicted by the second required conclusion, that "colonisation and its consequences have been central to our history for the past 200 years and continue to influence all aspects of New Zealand society". That is true but it is the beginning not the end of historical inquiry. Students should be directed to the balanced, nuanced work of true historians such as Massey Professor Michael Belgrave.
Belgrave is a former research manager for the Waitangi Tribunal and has been critical of its reports in a book entitled, 'Historical Frictions, Māori Claims and Reinvented Histories' (Auckland University Press, 2005). It contains a chapter examining the ways the Treaty has been re-interpreted over the years to serve the needs of the time.
But ever since it was signed, he writes, it has been used as a touchstone for debates about the place of Māori in New Zealand. I used to go to Waitangi on this day every year for precisely that reason.
For several years I sensed a Māori nationhood there that would have to be accommodated somehow. When the Māori Party was formed I could see how Māori could assert independent power in MMP coalitions. I think Māori saw it too, and turned it down.
I haven't been back to Waitangi since and don't know what it will tell me today. I just want my grandchildren to absorb the warmth of the Treaty ground and love it.