PM Gives Tribute to Colonisation on Waitangi Day
Jacinda Ardern's tribute to the queen on Waitangi Day serves as a timely reminder that we continue to operate under colonial rule and that the journey to decolonisation is ongoing.
On Waitangi Day, the prime minister released a statement acknowledging Elizabeth Alexandra Mary for having genetically inherited the role of queen 70 years ago. The queen serves as the head of state for the UK and 14 other colonised countries.
One of those colonised countries is Aotearoa.
And for us, Waitangi Day is a day to remember Te Tiriti o Waitangi and the struggle against colonisation. It is a day to remember the obligations of the Crown to iwi Māori under Te Tiriti.
It's also the time to celebrate the progress that has been made thanks to those who resisted and fought against colonial powers.
It would be a perverse untruth to attribute this progress to the good nature of the invaders. The Crown has always done as little as it could get away with, and has yet to pay retribution for what has been taken.
“As Queen of New Zealand, she has always shown a deep personal interest in the life and wellbeing of our nation. On behalf of all New Zealanders I would like to wish her well for this historic year.” Jacinda Arden on Waitangi Day
Ardern may as well have thanked the military that invaded, slaughtered and stole their way to power.
The queen is the biggest symbol of the British Empire, which has caused immeasurable suffering and dispossession in Aotearoa and around the globe. The colonial New Zealand state giving tribute to the queen on Waitangi Day is an act of self-affirmation. It is a subtle middle finger to the struggle for reparations and self-determination.
In a deeply ironic move, Ardern goes on to tell us to plant trees to honour the head of the very state responsible for the devastation of our forests.
"The Queen has encouraged anyone who wants to mark the Jubilee [anniversary] to do so by planting trees.... I hope many New Zealanders will get behind this work and join in planting trees and other greening projects"
We will plant trees, but we will do it to return to the land and her inhabitants what the queen's apparatus stole.
Thankfully, Te Pāti Māori provided a refreshing counter against the normalisation of colonial rule.
Co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer said “whilst the PM pays tribute to a Queen...whose people have consistently dishonoured Te Tiriti o Waitangi, our thoughts are with our own rangatira and our own tīpuna who were slaughtered at the hands of her people, our people who have continued to fight against the oppression that her monarch represents for us, fighting against constant breaches of the Treaty”.
"Tone deaf and insensitive" Te Pāti Māori
Meanwhile, The Green Party made a far more fitting release for Waitangi Weekend. The Greens revealed a discussion document titled 'Hoki Mai Whenua', which suggested the revision of all Treaty settlements and support for iwi and hapū to reacquire stolen land.
"Returning land to to tangata whenua is the right thing to do to address ongoing injustice that Māori experience." Greens co-leader Marama Davidson said.
"Nearly two centuries of land dispossession - much of which has been enabled by Crown policy - has caused an underlying, deep foundational harm that Māori continue to experience to this day."
The document points out that all Treaty settlements made since the Waitangi Tribunal's creation in 1975 amounted to $2.2 billion. To put that into perspective, the state's attempt to eradicate stoats, rats and possums as per the 'Predator Free 2050' programme is conservatively estimated to cost $32 billion.
Marama Davidson said that the ongoing harm of land dispossession can be seen in the number of Māori impacted by poverty and the impact on our natural world.
"Correcting past wrongs is a Crown responsibility" Marama Davidson
Whilst we have a long way to go, these alternative perspectives help to form cracks in dominant narratives. These cracks will inevitably grow, creating more space for movements to flourish and change the landscape of our political structure.