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New book allows the ‘many voices’ of the Treaty

New book allows the ‘many voices’ of the Treaty and of Maori/Pakeha relations to be heard more clearly

The Treaty of Waitangi Companion: Maori and Pakeha from Tasman to Today , an essential guide to the Treaty of Waitangi compiled by Vincent O’Malley, Bruce Stirling and Wally Penetito, is published today by Auckland University Press.

Since the Treaty of Waitangi was signed in 1840 it has become the defining document in our history. The Companion tells the story of the Treaty, and of Maori and Pakeha relations from first contact, through the many voices of those who made this country’s history.

Kiwis often assume that they know all they need to about the Treaty of Waitangi and its subsequent tortuous history.

“‘Treaty fatigue’ might almost be a medically diagnosed condition,” author Vincent O’Malley said at the launch earlier this week, “to judge by many of the comments that sometimes appear in the media and elsewhere.”

And yet, only a very small percentage of students at NCEA level choose the history option, and of those who do, only a very small number go on to study specifically New Zealand history. Meanwhile, since the establishment of the Waitangi Tribunal in 1975, the efforts of successive governments to inform the general public about the claims process and the history arising out of it have been negligible to non-existent.

O’Malley said, “A Treaty of Waitangi information programme was established in 2004 but was wound up three years later when its funding ended (and, of course, we’ve had the Treaty 2 U travelling exhibition). Beyond that, I would be hard pushed to think of any other concerted efforts in this direction.

“Instead, it has been left to historians to pick up the slack, and some of those gathered here tonight have made notable contributions to that cause. We hope that our book makes at least a modest addition to that body of works.”

In this respect, The Treaty of Waitangi Companion is very much aimed not at a specialist readership of experts but at a general one. Although. Of course, historians might still find the book useful for finding a quick reference to Normanby’s instructions or some other essential text, or find a few other interesting sources here that they weren’t previously aware of.

“Our book is a bit different, though,” according to O’Malley.

“In the best traditions of McIntyre and Gardner ’s Speeches and Documents on New Zealand History (which history graduates of my generation will be very familiar with), it is essentially what used to be known as a documentary history. That approach to history has long seemed unfashionable, so why seek to revive it?

“Well, for one thing, working in the Treaty claims process gives one an enhanced respect for the sources. When you are being grilled on them by overzealous lawyers for six hours or more as both Bruce and myself have experienced before the Waitangi Tribunal on a number of occasions, you quickly learn that sources are important. They matter. You also learn that there is often an immediacy and articulateness to them that cannot be adequately captured by way of mere summary or synopsis.”

The authors note in the preface to The Treaty of Waitangi Companion that the notion of allowing sources to speak for themselves is problematic. And yet, it cannot entirely be dismissed. There are limits on the extent to which sources are open to the ready manipulation of historians. And so, with such a view in mind, the authors have – if not exactly hit the mute button on the voice of the historian – at least sought to turn the volume down, in order to allow the words of King Tawhiao, Te Whiti, and even Don Brash to come through.

“We have attempted to let readers be the judge of what they encounter,” says O’Malley, “with some gentle prods through our introductions and further suggested readings. The historian’s voice is not entirely absent, while Wally’s thought-provoking and challenging introduction provides plenty of entry points into the text.

“So what do those sources reveal? Well, I won’t read the whole book out. But some of you will know that four days ago marked the 129th anniversary of the invasion of Parihaka.

“Parihaka Day really should be more well known. It might surprise many people to learn that the invasion of Parihaka was not met with universal acclaim among Pakeha. In fact, some people were distinctly embarrassed or even outraged by the sequence of events leading up to, and following, the capture and detention without trial of Te Whiti, Tohu and other Parihaka leaders. Even the journalists who had managed to sneak into the pa prior to its invasion wrote about the events of 5 November 1881 in doleful terms. This from the Auckland Star reporter who was inside the pa as nearly 1,600 constabulary descended upon it:

The Natives were more than usually grandly dressed, most of them wearing white feathers in their hair. In a large square at the entrance to the pah about a hundred young girls were assembled amusing themselves with skipping ropes. Beyond them…some hundreds of boys were gathered, awaiting the arrival of the hoia (soldiers) with great glee. I strolled round the pah, and found the women engaged in their usual occupations and as cordial in their welcome as ever. I noticed, however, that amongst the adults – the women especially – there was a prevailing sadness, as though they felt a great calamity was approaching…The whole spectacle was saddening in the extreme; it was an industrious, law-abiding, moral and hospitable community calmly awaiting the approach of the men sent to rob them of everything dear to them. (page 176).”

There are other entries in The Treaty of Waitangi Companion that many people will find shocking or saddening, a few that are hard-case or humorous, and others that might warm the heart, including Major-General Howard Kippenberger’s outraged response to the prospect that his former Maori comrades in arms might be excluded from the forthcoming tour to South Africa in 1949.

Ultimately, as with any book, readers will form their own judgments, but the authors express the hope that their work will at least allow the many voices of the Treaty, and of the wider story of Maori and Pakeha relations from the time of Tasman to today, to at least be heard a little more clearly.

About the Authors
Vincent O’Malley holds a BA (Hons) degree in History from the University of Canterbury and a PhD in New Zealand Studies from Victoria University of Wellington. He has worked as a professional historian since 1993, primarily engaged on behalf of claimants and agencies involved in the Treaty of Waitangi claims process, and is the author of Agents of Autonomy: Maori Committees in the Nineteenth Century (1998) and co-author of The Beating Heart: A Political and Socio-Economic History of Te Arawa (2008).

Bruce Stirling holds a degree in History from Victoria University of Wellington and has been involved in researching, writing and presenting reports for the Treaty of Waitangi claims process for over 20 years. He has also worked as a professional historian on a variety of other projects related to Maori land, the heritage sector, New Zealand public history, and environmental issues. He is a co-author of Ngati Tutemohua: A Maori History of North East Taupo (2009).

Wally Penetito has whakapapa links to Tainui, Ngati Haua, Ngati Tamatera, and Ngati Raukawa. He holds a PhD in Education, a BA in Education and Sociology, and a Diploma of Teaching. He is Professor of Maori Education at Victoria University of Wellington and Co-Director of He Parekereke, The Institute for Research and Development in Maori and Pacific Education. His last book was What's Maori About Maori Education?(VUP, 2010).


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