When we told the people around us that we were spending Waitangi Weekend at Waitangi we were universally greeted with a look of horror.
“I’ll say goodbye now, then,” one friend said.
“Why do you want to do that?” said another.
But why not? Here’s a bit of background…
Waitangi Day remembers the Treaty of Waitangi (6th Feb 1840), an agreement between 540 Maori Chiefs and the British Crown which essentially laid the foundations of the New Zealand of today. It was signed at Waitangi in the Bay of Islands and remains controversial in it’s details, as these things always are. Every year there are scuffles on Waitangi Day at Waitangi, and this year was no exception. The day remains a platform for people with grievances, and that’s no bad thing in a mostly-peaceful country. Where better to stage a protest on age-old issues that keep resurrecting themselves than the place where it all began?
Coming from the UK, which has seen more than it’s fair share of riots, bombings and violent, bloody protests, where even a football match used to be a no-go area without wearing knuckle-dusters, I was expecting an angst-ridden weekend full of tension. And what did I get?
…a strange, but beautiful, celebration of the two different cultural identities living in the same country. New Zealand.
The sad thing about it was, aside from the Dawn Karakia (spiritual prayer) where Maori and Pakeha (non-Maori) came together, the cultural celebrations were parallel, but not intertwined. I came home with the overriding feeling that, 172 years on from the Treaty of Waitangi, this nation remains divided.
….many thanks in particular to Angela from Taiamai Tours who answered many of our questions on Wakas…