by St Paul's Collegiate School

Students reflect on what Waitangi Day means to them

One hundred eighty years ago, two people stood in accord with one another. Two people stood for the founding of a nation. Both signed and agreed upon a lengthy piece of document which provided the rules and laws this new nation would uphold. The greatest experiment that humanity had ever seen was about to commence. And for a short time, it seemed to work. A short time. Cracks of tension and disagreement began. Brothers would begin to fight brothers. Blood would forever stain the whenua. This piece of paper, this crunched up drawn-out document was meant to stop this from happening . . . So why did the Treaty fail?

This is a story that has been repeated a million times, in a million places. History has not been kind to the smaller individual. So why, out of all the countries and states that this story has been told, is this day so important to us? I would like to think it's a day we reflect on the past and use it as an insight on the problems of today. Of poverty. Of pain. Grief. Many here may not be able to see this, but I have. Did the Treaty work?

Maori are three times more likely to consume tobacco and be born or set into poverty in this nation. Only 68.1% of Maori passed Level 2 NCEA. Maori are twice as likely to commit suicide when compared to there pakeha counterparts. That is their only chance. This stems from Maori feeling more isolated and lost than ever before. A lost connection with their tupuna and their whakapapa, the mistakes of the past still shaping Aotearoa's society today.

But, I must always acknowledge something. Whina Cooper once said “I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept.” We can’t change history. I can’t go back to stop anything that happened, and neither can you. We can only acknowledge and learn its existence in order to heal and solve the grievances that both sides have towards one another. I cannot accept the fact that I may only talk for minutes about this day . . . not hours. If Maori want to celebrate this day, they should be allowed to.

Maybe, it didn't work. Surely, the treaty left Maori worse off than before, and a disaster in race relations in a pakeha perspective. But maybe, its new purpose for unity and healing of two peoples can leave both sides moving towards progress, instead of conflict. Ko te tootara waahi rua, he maa te ahi - The Totara that grows divided is food for the fire . . .

I hate you, I hate each and every one of you!...

When will you learn! I didn’t sign the treaty! Protesting...don’t you have something better to do? Why don’t you just get over it? Just vote, just stand in an election, just say it in English, just be more like me!

I hate you...I hate each and every one of you!...

Your language, your taonga wearing, tattoo flaunting, Treaty entitled, university scholarship winning.

This is how it feels…

This is how it feels when we fail to honour the Treaty, when we fail to learn the lessons of the past. When we reap the benefits of ill-gotten gains aplenty and then fail to accept grievance, bitterness, or recompense.

This is how it feels when PE, Math, Science, English, Music, RE and Social Studies are compulsory in the junior school - but when I mention compulsion of Te Reo Maaori I'm required to clearly articulate and defend its value, relevance and significance? Why am I asked to translate te reo maaori for the benefit of others when the same considerations are never made for me?

To know me is to know my language...see the world through my eyes.

The immense loss I feel on this day - Waitangi Day - is forever tied to the 1.2 million acres stolen from my people. Not to mention the loss of language, and life which would impact successive generations - my generation! The great and tragic sacrifice made by my tuupuna who gave their lives fighting in the Waikato Wars - fighting for our freedom, our land, our people our way of life.

How do we at St Paul’s Collegiate overcome this sadness and honour this day?

In truth we don’t...we have athletics standards. We ignore, and suppress feelings of guilt, belonging, and complicity. We pressure students who would rather make a stand.

Give me a turn sadness to joy, to respond to hate with love, ignorance with truth and darkness with light.

It’s Waitangi Day so give me a day!