Late January, early February is a significant time of year in New Zealand, especially in Māoridom.
Late January sees the celebrations for the Māori prophet Tahupotiki Wiremu Ratana, the founder of the Ratana Movement, a church and a political movement founded by Ratana in the early 20th century.
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On November 18, 1918, Ratana, a farmer living near Turakina in north Rangitikei, saw a vision which he regarded as divinely inspired asking him to preach the gospel to the Māori people, cure the spirits and bodies of the people and to rid the people of the influence of the Tohunga.
He preached to increasingly large numbers of people until May 31, 1925, when the Ratana Church was established and Ratana was acknowledged as the bearer of Te Mangai or God's word and wisdom.
The small township of Ratana Pa, less than 22km south of Whanganui is the heart of the movement and home permanently to about 350 people and growing.
It sits on land donated by Ratana and is the centre of the celebrations every year for a week or so leading up to the prophet's birthday on January 25.
Thousands of followers gather at the village to enjoy a festival of sport, entertainment, hospitality and aroha.
It is truly a peaceful and joyous place to visit. The festival is very well-run by the church komiti and the katipa, or church wardens.
No alcohol or drugs are permitted in the settlement at any time, especially during celebration week.
Knee-jerk gun law could make criminals of honest citizens
One year I had the privilege and honour of leading the NZ Police contingent at the celebrations when a record 25,000 people attended.
Policing in the village was very benign and at the direction of the katipa.
We mostly played touch football with the kids and chatted to festival-goers. I am not sure that police even attend the celebrations nowadays.
The celebration is also the opportunity for politicians of all hues to gather before the paepae of the wharenui and strut their stuff before a significant and very politically informed segment of Māoridom.
Labour taking dear little Neve this year would have gone down a treat and probably leavened the disappointment felt by Māori at the lack of actual transformation taking place in areas such as Maori health, Whanau Ora and Oranga Tamariki.
Labour has a long history of being supported by the Ratana Movement from the days of Mickey Savage but it has been a fractured relationship at times.
With a resurgent Maori Party this year, which has a strong local candidate in the local seat of Te Tai Hauauru, Labour have real cause for concern.
National's Simon Bridges attended but would have been up against it. At least the kai is good, Simon. The lesser parties turn up too for their annual token "homage" to Māoridom.
A nationally better-known event is Waitangi Day on February 6.
Just another holiday for many New Zealanders but a day of commemoration for Māori still wondering what the heck happened after 1840.
Space precludes the detail about why Māori feel short-changed but here is my very potted version.
The British decided that they were stuck with New Zealand in 1839 and, with the connivance of corrupt missionaries, decided to get one of their formulaic treaties out, dust it off and get it adapted to local needs.
The influential Church Missionary Society, members of who already had personally "acquired" significant tracts of land from friendly tribes, helped the British with the various convenient translations so that the chiefs seeing something that they thought, at the time, was good, protecting their mana and sovereignty and stopping the ruinous musket wars, signed the paper.
The British, with the help of the missionaries, then drew up an English version which did not quite match the Māori version.
The missionaries were quick to assure the chiefs nothing was amiss as they wanted to keep their land.
The great con then began. Oh, and the French were also coming and the British really did not want their old enemy establishing a foothold of any significance in Aotearoa. The signed Treaty ensured that the French were banished to Akaroa.
Established history shows that not only were the chiefs conned but then the British mostly just ignored the Treaty anyway, unless it was needed to bring some difficult old rangatira into line. End of my potted history.
New Zealand has yet to really grasp the concept of a national day as Australia and the US have.
We are all a proud people but, even after years of education and the gradual realisation of the hurt and downright thievery committed by the British and their compliant missionaries against Māori in the 19th century most of us still regard Waitangi Day as just another New Zealand summer holiday. Sad.