When Te Tiriti o Waitangi became the bedrock of our nation 184 years ago, it was the Māori language version in which rangatira etched their names, moko and marks.
Māori, guided by manaaki, aroha and kaitiakitanga, saw more than 500 rangatira consenting to coexistence, permitting settlers to share this great nation, its land and its resources.
Te Tiriti o Waitangi; the covenant between Māori and the Crown. Not anyone else.
This year’s Waitangi commemoration habours an unprecedented mauri. The integrity of Te Tiriti is at risk of practical erasure, fueled by an under-10-per cent political party holding a desperate Prime Minister hostage over a coalition agreement.
If successful, it would be the dirtiest and most desperate resource grab in this country’s history.
But beautifully and unexpectedly, a remarkable adverse reaction unfolds. Whānau Māori, iwi, and tangata Tiriti unite in solidarity and kotahitanga to hold the line.
At Turangawaewae Marae, 12,000 gathered from the Far North to the south at the call of the Kiingitanga Movement.
Iwi set aside their own politics; some woke at the early hours and travelled eight hours by bus. Even Ngāpuhi turned up.
In standing-room only, enduring unbearable heat, our people turned out en masse.
A united stance against a coalition Government attempting a modern-era colonialism - divide and conquer.
Since the signing of Te Tiriti, we’ve beckoned for its upholding. Ironically, this year’s Rātana commemorations coincided with 100 years since Tahupōtiki Wiremu Rātana petitioned the British Empire, calling for Te Tiriti to be embedded within constitutional law.
From T.W. Rātana’s actions to wānanga on Te Tiriti’s meaning, Māori have long shared dialogue about it.
That dialogue continued at Tūrangawaewae and Rātana. Open events for anyone to attend, but funnily enough, the person so desperate for the discussion and leading the reform was notably absent.
His failure to turn up and listen to dialogue should not be surprising. Failure to engage in conversation with Māori and the Crown would in my view be treasonous.
Mr under-10-per cent has no mandate to eradicate more than 50 years of jurisprudence. The Tiriti principles have already been defined by the rule of law from the District Courts to the Supreme Court, unlike the “winner-takes-all” approach from the coalition.
If the boot were on the other foot, and Māori were doing this to Pākehā, I believe violent revolution could occur.
The Treaty of Waitangi was never meant to empower Māori; it was always intended to disempower.
But they failed at the inking of Te Tiriti o Waitangi, promising our tīpuna a New Zealand where Māori and the Crown would assert their own authority over their own people.
The first article of the covenant awarded total custodianship of Aotearoa to the Crown. It did not award ownership.
The second article put beyond all doubt the assertion of Rangatiratanga - the right of Māori to have total control and governance of all their own domains.
The third article asserted that Māori would be treated equally with all non-Māori.
The latest leaked principles Te Pāti Māori got hold of attempts to have another go at disempowering us. An underhand grasping to get Māori out of the way and say “we are all Kiwis”.
The only way this nation can work is where the true intent of Te Tiriti is honoured. Where Māori without prejudice assert their right to self-management, self-determination and self-governance over all their domains.
Te Pāti Māori’s mana-motuhake platform is the intergenerational pathway toward this intended vision.
As this year’s Waitangi commemorations unfold, you can be certain that the conversation will continue to blaze.
A collective fire ignites in the belly of our people for a common cause. The call to activate echoes across the motu. How loud must our voices be to be truly heard?
In our protest, there’s a palpable desperation, an urgency in our step. Some fearful of being silenced within their government-employed roles.
It’s time for the Prime Minister to recognise Māori as his greatest opportunity. To stop the harm, grow a backbone, exhibit leadership, and assert control over the Government he leads. A legacy of divide and conquer cannot be this Prime Minister’s dream.
While he may claim not to support the attempted erasure of Te Tiriti beyond the select committee stage, why comfortably trade off and subject everyone with Māori whakapapa to such agonising suffering?
At Rātana, he pledged to work with Māori, not against.
Our challenge to you, Prime Minister - this weekend is your chance to confront the Māori nation, alter the course, and practise what you preached. There are so many more important issues we should be focusing on to unite and grow a strong Aotearoa we can all thrive in.
Debbie Ngarewa-Packer is the co-leader of Te Pāti Māori.