As we head into our national day of Aotearoa tomorrow, I reflect and turn to acknowledge you, our people. Te iwi Māori katoa.
This year, let Waitangi Day be about the celebration of Māori. Something we don't do enough.
Last year was incredibly challenging for us all. Our relationships and livelihoods were tested in every which way possible. Our belief, our trust and faith in each other was on the line. It was tough as our everyday norms changed, yet as always, and in despite of, we rose to the occasion and prevailed.
I have never seen nor felt the movement that I feel in my wairua right now. The movement of our people, reclaiming their tūranga as Tangata Whenua in Aotearoa. It is electric and very hard to ignore.
Last year I witnessed your actions and I heard your voices. I saw you step up into your rights to be treated equally as Tangata Whenua, in our country, on our whenua. I saw that happen unapologetically.
I saw the redesigning of health response by the indigenous movements, Te Whānau o Waipareira, Whānau Ora, Hau ora katoa, Māori not just vaccinating our own, but vaccinating the country. I saw our people take to their feet in protest against mandates that were further marginalising our people.
I saw Māori learn how to saliva test their iwi, hapu and whānau, going against what Government told them must be norm.
I saw Māori rangatahi at their schools challenging colonial systems and winning. I saw Māori lawyers changing archaic requirements for attire in the courtroom. I saw young rangatahi Māori across the country, like Aiomai Nuku-Tarawhiti, setting a new standard for what is no longer acceptable racism.
We set a new precedent with the Court of Appeal to ban seabed mining. I saw pride in being Māori everywhere. Petitions to change our nation's name to Aotearoa grew to record numbers in just a few hours.
This is the movement that I speak of and I can feel it growing stronger and stronger. In our rangatahi repelling greed and capitalism, calling out neoliberal politics, leading the climate change movement, fighting for social justice, and against racism.
With 70 per cent of our Māori population under 40 years old, 20 per cent under 20, our rangatahi are becoming a force to be reckoned with. Your voices were loud and I'm excited as heck.
Together we are making them listen, we are making inroads, slowly but surely. We need your voices to continue to bellow whether on the front line, on social media or in the House with monsters on the walls.
As our voices become louder and actions bolder, we move closer to our liberation as a people, to the Tiriti-centric Aotearoa future, and the prospects of what that will be.
My tungane Rawiri Waititi shared our vision for Aotearoa to be the best nation in the world; we want to be in total control of our sovereignty, tino rangatiratanga.
A future where there will be no debate around legislation that benefits Māori advancement. It will simply happen because it should never have stopped.
Manaakitanga, whanaungatanga, kaitiakitanga will lead our partnership gaze beyond the puna of wealth and capitalism. We will have a values-based Aotearoa that we can be proud of, where we are creating homes for the homeless, addressing poverty so that dignity is restored and resolving intergenerational trauma from the confiscations of land and colonialism.
We see those of our Tangata Tiriti who stand with us, who explain to those who want to understand but don't yet. Those who correct the ignorant and stand against the bigotry and racism. Those who acknowledge white fragility and privilege and those who want to change.
Tangata Tiriti perspectives are incredibly important and I'd like to mihi to those who take ownership and responsibility for how they can contribute to a Tiriti-centric Aotearoa.
Our visionary Moana Jackson said, "The Treaty to me has never been about Treaty rights, it's always been about the rightness that comes from people accepting their obligations to each other."
Te Pāti Māori know that the only way this nation can work is when Māori are supported to assert their rights to self-management, self-determination, and self-governance over all their domains.
For too long the vanilla approach has left a sour taste in our mouths. Now is the time for Tiriti-centric Aotearoa and that must start with a relationship overhaul.
• Debbie Ngarewa-Packer is co-leader of Te Pāti Māori