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Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Waitangi Day - New Zealand's Day!

The FlagPole at the Treaty Grounds

Today is Waitangi day.

Waitangi Day is held every year on the 6th of February, and it is New Zealand's National holiday to celebrate the signing of the Treaty, back in 1840.  The Treaty is considered NZ's founding document, much like the Declaration of Independence.  With that in mind, Waitangi Day is similar to celebrating the 4th of July.

The Treaty was signed at Waitangi in 1840, in the stunning far North, by British Representatives and over 500 Maori Chiefs.  It was a significant day in our history.  It made NZ a part of the British Commonwealth, and guaranteed Maori (the indigenous people of NZ) rights to their land and the same rights as a British citizen.  Over the years, this has been a cause of tension, as interpretation over the differences between the Maori and English translations, varies.  In particular, land ownership.    You can read more here.


The Treaty 


Traditionally, politicians flock to the Waitangi Treaty grounds each year, to participate in the celebrations, particularly pre Waitangi Day celebrations.   It is also typical that there are protests at the grounds.  This year was no different.

Every year, the media sensationalise Waitangi Day, and focus more on controversy and protest than in showcasing unity.   In doing so,  they alienate both Maori and Pakeha (the name for New Zealanders of European decent) in our country, creating division and opening up scars and old prejudices.


Hobson's Beach - at Waitangi
Today I read one of the best criticisms of this obsession by the media to turn our national day into one of controversy, all in the name of making a few dollars and selling some papers.  I particularly like her summation on the responsibility the media has for race relations.  You can read her article here 

"So as I watch the way Waitangi is reported in the mainstream media this year, I am again frustrated. The media is selling the public short and it should be mindful of the role it plays in race relations in this country."


Waitangi Day needs to be our National Day of celebrating what it is to be kiwi.  We are a unique and special peoples, with a rich culture that comes from our Maori heritage and from the many peoples who have made it to our shores and call New Zealand home.  There are not many of us in the world.   I don't know the exact figure of how many kiwis are out there in the world, but I would estimate it would be somewhere around 5.5 to 6 million (based on how many live here and how many live offshore).   That makes us rare!

We need to celebrate all the amazing things that are about being a kiwi.  For example our number 8 wire mentality, and the fact that we punch well above our weight in the world arena for everything from sport, music, writing, movies, science and even politics.

Most importantly, New Zealand is the home of all things Maori, and we should celebrate how important that is to us all.  The Reo (language) and Tikanga (Maori way of doing things) have shaped our country - for me, it is what it is to be kiwi.  Maori culture is to me, the foundation of kiwi culture - it is unique and it is special.

The Meeting House 

I love being a kiwi.  I love that we are a small nation of peoples who are diverse and I love that we live in what I believe is a paradise.  We are lucky to have such richness of culture, landscape and freedoms at our disposal.  Our children were lucky to be born here.  Many countries can not say the same.  It is this that we need to celebrate.  We are not perfect - and for that we have work to do - but that is not the intent of this particular post.  For today, it is to remember what it is that makes us who we are.  To stand together as one, accepting our diversity and celebrating it.

It is important to acknowledge the past, and it is important that we use the present to heal the ongoing wounds so that we can move forwards with openness and success into the future.

Today is Waitangi Day.  I celebrated by chilling out at home with family.  You may have celebrated by attending a Waitangi Day celebration, going to the beach, protesting, reflecting on the Treaty or just having a break.  However you celebrated our National Day - I hope you had a great one!!

The Meeting House - another view 
NB: The pics are from a visit to the Waitangi grounds we took last year - it is a stunning place, and when you are standing there, overlooking the flag pole and the ocean, you can feel the history of the place.  If you are in Northland - go.  You won't regret the trip.


Ngatokimatawhaorua, one of the largest Māori waka, sits in the grounds.

For more information:
http://www.newzealand.com/travel/media/features/maori-culture/maori-culture_waitangi-treaty-grounds_feature.cfm

http://www.newzealand.com/travel/media/features/events/events_celebrating-waitangi-day_feature.cfm

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