Saturday, February 10, 2018

The White Wahine

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is the first woman (wahine) prime minister to be granted... the right to speak on the marae at Waitangi in celebration/commemoration of the signing of Te Treaty o Waitangi, the founding document of NZ Aotearoa signed in 1840 between the (male) leaders of the indigenous Maori and the colonising Pakeha.

Ardern made the most of that 'privilege' as she described the honour of being granted what Helen Clark as PM before her was denied, an occasion that brought Clark to rare tears of frustration, and said that she intended to go on to 'earn' and honour that right in the policy decisions her government made with respect to improving the lives of Maori and doing much more to fulfil the partnership agreement of the Treaty.

And her humility, sincerity and respect shown for Maori as Tangata Whenua (first peoples) of Aotearoa ensured the 5-day-long ceremony was the most peaceful and productive meeting of the two parties to the Treaty ever seen.

As a result of Ardern's full participation in the five days of celebration, while five months pregnant, Waitangi Day 2018 has been hailed as a 'triumph' for Ardern and an 'unqualified success', even 'The Mother of all Huis.'

Indeed I can't help feeling that great progress has been made between Maori and Pakeha, as well as indigenous and colonising peoples of the world, and, not least, between men and women of Aotearoa and beyond too, in this historic event.

I remember all too well watching Helen Clark's tears on the same occasion in 1998, 20 years ago, when she, as PM, was banned from speaking on the marae at Waitangi because she is a woman and finding it hard to accept that this was what our commitment to Te Treaty o Waitangi meant.

Most battles between races and cultures involve other battles too. Wahine, white European wahine especially, including Helen Clark, have fought hard, for so many centuries, predating the colonisation of Aotearoa, against the injustices of institutionalised male domination, that it is surely to dishonour that long, hard fight to continue to say that respecting Maori and the Treaty means respecting the traditional Maori policy that only men are allowed to speak on the marae.

All strong partnerships require compromises, and this compromise on the side of Maori to allow this white wahine to speak on the marae in 2018, sends a message of productive compromise and progress on which a proper cultural partnership can be based, I think. I hope.

So well done to all who brought this compromise about, including Helen Clark and the many women (and some men), Maori and Pakeha, who have fought before and since her for women's voices to be heard and respected in all cultures throughout the world.

Compromise is king, and cooperation and compassion are queenly. We need all these qualities to get along in our diverse and too often divided world.

The ceremonial Waitangi Warriors, Waitangi Day, 2018