Tuesday, May 26, 2009

1840 is not year zero

Why do New Zealanders continue with their ‘Year Zero’ way of looking at the history of this country?

I have just seen a short history of Te Tau Ihu (Top of the South). Two sentences for the over 1000 years of maori history and the rest of the 3 paragraphs for the pakeha history. Doesn’t this seem a little ludicrous? Why is the maori history of this land not told to all citizens? Did this land begin when pakeha got here? Is 1840 year zero!

Well for many, it is! The picture of maori history, heroes, legends, marriages, loves and losses is unknown and irrelevant to many. Not because the information isn’t interesting or even useful, but because there is no way for these people to engage with these histories. They are histories of someone else – the ‘others’. It is not the history of the pakeha, and because it is not the pakeha history… guess what?… from their point of view it might as well as not happened. In fact for many it didn’t happen. It is all myth and superstition. New Zealand started when the pakeha arrived in numbers, before that – it didn’t exist! New Zealand is Ed hilary and number 8 fencing wire and Gallipoli.

And they are right. For pakeha, the maori history is less important and relevant to them than histories about the native Americans or the swiss. In other words – they just don’t give a stuff. Why should they? What is in it for them? What benefits would they gain by understanding and engaging with the real history of this land? Not much at the moment. We need to provide context to encourage engagement around the histories of this country.

Because maori, due to colonization, have been forced into this defensive position of having to defend everything from so called historical facts, we never really get the chance to present our histories to anyone other than us. Just look at all of the pseudo-historians that come out when maori get uppity (such as wanting to have reps on the Auckland Supercitycouncil). All of sudden we get, “What about the moriori?” “Maori weren’t the first here – they are not indigenous – the first people here were white, celts, Spanish, Chinese, south Americans, aliens, Egyptians, lizard people, romans, Christians, you name it… anyone but maori.”

What is going on here? Why is there resistance to this idea that maori are tangata whenua, indigenous, were ripped off and deserve recompense?

It seems to me that the major difficulty for pakeha is that if they agree that maori are indigenous and that they were colonized and treated poorly… then where does that leave them? Where does that leave someone who was born in this country and who isn’t maori?

Who am I? My people came here from another land and colonized the indigenous people and made all of their beliefs secondary to mine. My people created this land like their homeland, without a thought for the original inhabitants. My people took what they wanted and created a land to live in. Yet I have a nagging feeling that what my people did was wrong and I am actually living a lie.

And this is where we really get to it.

If maori are not recognized as tangata whenua and indigenous and treated with the respect and dignity that they should be… then this country will never reach it’s potential. This New Zealand will fail. You cannot build a country on lies and deceit. You cannot build a country on foundations made of nothing.

You can build a country on truth. You can build a country on strong foundations. You can build a country when maori are not treated like second class citizens, when maori don’t have to defend every position from the ‘Year Zear’ pol-potters.

This land is not england.

This land is maori.

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