It was essential that tāngata whenua featured at the Rugby World Cup opening events last Friday night. Immediately after the shows people around the country, and indeed the world, were heralding the RWC opening ceremonies. Due credit has been given to the awesome array of tikanga Māori that played a big part in our global introduction to this international tournament.
Build-up events have included flash mob haka which have been superbly executed around the country. This display of pride and ownership in a tāngata whenua identity has tickled the nation’s spine with its excellence.
New Zealanders have so much to be proud of in acknowledging the unique place of our iwi and hapū as hosts of this land. Friday night’s offerings lead by Ngāti Whātua included a feast of our traditions such as our karanga, our waiata, our haka, our moko, our waka, our reo and through all that our people and our pride.
The inclusion of Te Reo by Frenchman and International Rugby Board President Bernard Lapasset in his speech was sharply contrasted by the lack of any from our own Prime Minister in the preceding welcome speech. Far from being a tokenistic offering by Lapasset, most of us were instead grateful to him for making an effort to acknowledge the importance of our language in this land.
I come from a long line of avid rugby supporters. My father, brother and sister have all played to respectable levels and my three and five year old sons play every Saturday morning. A love for theatre and performance also courses through my veins thanks to being born into ‘the industry’ and lastly I claim lineage to the longest line of Ngāpuhi/Te Rarawa and Ngāti Porou upstarts. On Friday night I watched gloriously as my rugby fanatic, drama loving, tāngata whenua staked backgrounds all melded effortlessly. Let me be clear – I was a proud Kiwi that night.
But what happens when the world is no longer watching?
We will still be left questioning the partnership and sovereignty guaranteed under the Treaty of Waitangi and further advocated for in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Where is that sovereignty given the loud and clear opposition from members of Te Whānau-a-Apanui, Ngāti Porou, Taranaki and Taitokerau Iwi to fracking, mining and deep sea oil drilling? I am not proud of my country for this.
That same partnership can be called into question around the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Act 2011. There is not much to be proud of either in the final Act that was passed or in the race relations damage that fell out of the discourse around the Bill before it was passed.
We will still be left with the questions around justice and a damaged Crown/Tuhoe relationship thanks to the Urewera raids of 2007. I am not proud of our country for that.
We will still be left with the questions around the recent WAI262 claim findings. Māori have always stated that we never surrendered our claim to indigenous flora, fauna and knowledge. Yet the report fails to uphold mechanisms for iwi to have real input into making decisions around those resources. I am not proud of my country for this.
In the East my relations are trying to make the best of the situation we find ourselves in with a rushed settlement and new governance entity election process. I am not proud of this.
And in the North, my people are currently at loggerheads over a process for Treaty settlement that is not a tikanga process in the first place. I do not believe this fighting is what my tupuna envisioned for my North and yet here we are playing a Crown forced game and not our own. I am certainly not proud of this.
We will still be left with glaring inequalities that see the indigenous people of this land disproportionately represented in unemployment, poverty, child abuse, poor health and poor education outcomes. We should all be hanging our heads in shame at this.
These are a few of the many issues facing the country that were here long before the RWC spectacular fireworks – which I thoroughly enjoyed. I love to party like anyone else. But we must not drop the ball on issues of social justice and human rights lest we leave nothing for the descendents of our mokopuna to party about.
How do we get to that place where we can all be proud of the terrific karanga sent out by our magnificent wahine not only because she does it with pride and honour and represents us astonishingly, but because our country has truly honoured us as tāngata whenua of this nation?
As it is already we are proud to roll ourselves out and take up the privilege and responsibility of welcoming visitors to our whenua. All around the country marae and communities have been opening their hearts to RWC teams and visitors. I look forward to a time when we are truly acknowledged as tāngata whenua of this land and that is manifested in our day to day lives and not just on show for visitors. There is much work to do and creating places for profound dialogue at all levels would be a great start.
For the rest of us, there is Constitutional transformation and review to debate and the Treaty of Waitangi to remember. Let the RWC be a motivation rather than a distraction.
And go the mighty All Blacks!
Marama Davidson (Ngāpuhi/Te Rarawa/Ngāti Porou )