Today, Waitangi Day, will see me pottering around the house. Some paint slapped on here, a bit of gardening there.

Because I don't watch the TV news and don't go near the internet at home, official Waitangi Day events will pass me by. If anything interesting happens, I'll find out tomorrow.

I've been to the Treaty Grounds on Waitangi Day a few times though. As a Pākehā, I recommend attending at least once. You get a different perspective on the day than what sometimes comes through in the media.

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But this year, like many people, a midweek day at home getting on top of things is what I'll be doing.

The view from the top of Puheke Hill, the deserted sweep of white sand is Karikari Beach. Photo/File
The view from the top of Puheke Hill, the deserted sweep of white sand is Karikari Beach. Photo/File

Perhaps, though, as I'm applying paint to a windowsill, I can afford to reflect on what Māori culture has given me.

I'm thankful for the names of hills, rivers, harbours and towns that tell us stories about this land.

As an example, I recently fished at Puheke Hill on the Karikari Peninsula.

Someone noticed long ago that this hill — an extinct volcano — sitting on the coastline between two stretches of pristine white sand looks like an octopus. A body with eight rocky arms, remnants of lava flows, reaching into the surf.

Local Māori fish here as their ancestors would have done. Standing on a rock casting hopefully into those waters you can't help but feel a connection to the people who first told stories about such landmarks.

I'm also thankful for the beautiful wharenui I've had the privilege to enter. These are spaces that speak to the human spirit.

And I'm thankful for the colourful historical figures I've read about. Te Kooti, Hōne Heke, Rua Kēnana and Whina Cooper.

I'm thankful for Māori artists whose work has moved me, like Ralph Hotere, Andrea Hopkins, Lisa Reihana and Cliff Whiting. For writers, like Hone Tuwhare, Witi Ihimaera and Keri Hulme.


I'm thankful for the Kamo High School kapa haka group that blew everyone away at senior prizegiving last year.

I'm thankful for the network of Māori activists, often linked to marae and other iwi and hapu organisations, who have so often struggled against neo-liberalism and the damage the unfettered market has done (is doing) to this country. It could be worse.

I'm thankful that I've rubbed shoulders and pressed noses with people like Hone Harawira, whose commitment to social justice is inspiring.

I'm thankful that ideas like kaitiakitanga (guardianship, especially of the land) have seeped into the national culture and might be useful in our transition to a more sustainable and respectful relationship with the environment.

I'm thankful for the democratic spirit that still exists within iwi and hapu. Reaching consensus within groups of people is hard work.

The hard work done by Ngapuhi in recent years as they move forward with Treaty negotiations with the Crown is an example of participatory democracy that should be a model for more of our organisations and institutions.

Finally, I'm thankful for being made to feel uncomfortable in cultural settings where Tikanga Māori dominates. Because then I'm reminded that my everyday actions, thoughts, social rituals and customs aren't universal, that there is in this world different ways of doing things. And that's okay.