Don Brash recently claimed in these columns that "the colonial Pākehā sovereignty model" established by the 1842 Treaty brought an end to tribal warfare, cannibalism and slavery, and introduced literacy, modern medicine, sanitation and the benefits of modernity.
Really! I decided to do some fact checks.
I discovered that Thomas Kendall introduced literacy to Māori in 1816 and those skills were quickly passed from district to district. The first books in Māori were distributed in 1827, and Māori had a higher rate of literacy before the signing of the Treaty than non-Māori. (tinyurl.com/ritituhi)
By the early 1830s, Māori had grown war-weary, and peace had been largely established by Christian missionaries who also introduced modern agriculture, flour mills, ship-building, commercial trading, etc (tinyurl.com/ahuwhenua).
The colonial government actually reignited warfare in the 1860s, sending war parties to rob peaceful tribes in the Waikato, Taranaki, East Coast and Canterbury districts of millions of hectares of prime farmland, and to destroy many of the profitable enterprises they had started (tinyurl.com/kohunu).
Traditional Māori medical knowledge was used to heal colonists, but the colonial government failed to introduce modern medical practices to Māori, with the result that many of them died of diseases introduced by colonists. It was left to Dr Maui Pomare to introduce modern sanitation to his fellow Māori in 1901, after he had studied medicine in the USA (tinyurl.com/Pomare).
On many occasions since the 1840 Treaty partnership, Māori have been treated as slaves without any legal rights — in the 19th century confiscations and later at Parihaka, the Whanganui headwaters, Bastion Point and a multitude of other blatant land grabs.
Stripped of their farmlands, Māori have been forced to go hungry or do servile work, often in cities where they have become alienated, and then enslaved by Pākehā drugs and alcohol. Even today a Māori teenager is eight times more likely to be imprisoned later in life than a white teenager (tinyurl.com/mauherehere).
I'll leave other Chronicle readers to decide whether Mr Brash's major at university was in history, as he also claimed, or in fictional writing.
DONALD Brash quite clearly does not wish to enter into honest, objective debate on the Treaty of Waitangi. (Letters, August 29). Instead, we are left with the clear conclusion that he uses his version of Te Tiriti as a platform to espouse his personal ideology of a superior white colonial culture civilising barbarian Māori and that Māori should be grateful for this.
The fact that the Crown guaranteed Tino Rangatiratanga, Māori chieftainship over their land, people and resources, is completely ignored by Dr Brash. Instead, he dismisses as "absurd" the notion that "500 largely illiterate chiefs" could possibly entertain the notion they were entering into a form of partnership with the English.
The systematic erosion and outright suppression of Tino Rangatiratanga by the Pākehā colonial settler government following the Treaty is an indelible part of our history, and the basis for many of the claims by Māori put to the Waitangi Tribunal.
Perhaps the most poignant example of this process is the story of Parihaka. The annihilation of this peaceful Māori settlement by a combination of English law and military force provides a comprehensive example of a wider history of land seizures and subjugation of Māori.
Truth is both a powerful and essential precursor to reconciliation. The stories told by Māori in the context of the Treaty claims process are not only important historical testimony of the Māori experience of colonisation following Te Tiriti but also a reminder that two different peoples and cultures will each tell their own unique story within a shared national history.
If Aotearoa/New Zealand is to have an harmonious society in the future, we each and all need to acknowledge and accept the truths embodied in the conditions and histories of all our citizens.
I hope Dr Brash is able to find it in himself to meet that challenge.
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