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September 18, 2017 | by  | in Ngāi Tauira |
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Te Ara Tauira

Treaty Unrealism

Being a law student for the most part means being practical. Giving legal opinions in hypothetical scenarios sounds creative, but it is confined within the boundaries of established legal precedents and statutes. There is little room for questioning those boundaries. So, as I am being taught about the place of the Treaty of Waitangi in Aotearoa’s constitution, I am left with a bitter taste in my mouth. You kind of get used to it as time goes on. You learn to deal with the bitterness.  

People in this country are quick to tell you where Māori stand. They try make you to feel grateful for colonisation, for the millions of dollars worth of reparation we have received.  

We have come a long way in Treaty relations, that’s clear. But is what we have now really what the Treaty is about? Since 1840, Māori have resisted any challenge to their rangatiratanga, consistently seeking that the Treaty be recognised for what it was; what they understood it to mean.  Why should I just accept, because there is a lot more for Māori now then there was 100 years ago, that my ancestors’ dreams have been achieved?  Have we lowered our expectations for the Treaty and just simply accepted what we’ve been taught?

As I try to envision what my ancestors did when they signed Te Tiriti, all I can think about is not what we have now. Not even close. We can keep letting cliché election year lines repeat themselves, for example: “better outcomes for Māori”, or we can realise what Māori always did. Rangatiratanga and Kawanatanga. We need to stop asking what’s practical, based on the fear of not being able to fit within the program. We need to start asking “why not, and why not now?”

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