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Tariana Turia's Beehive Chat

Beehive Chat 14 October 2002

In the past fortnight we have witnessed two Claims Settlement Bills being read in Parliament. This is an important moment for iwi.

Every claim is unique. It arises from a unique history, and affects the people in different ways. But all tangata whenua have experienced the effects of colonisation.

As I said in Parliament, whatever words we use to describe the events of the past, and their aftermath, one thing is certain: their effects are being felt today by tangata whenua.

As one example, every day the people of Ruanui, Pakakohi and Tangahoe descent drive past one of the biggest and most modern dairy factories in the world. They know that millions of dollars are earned every year from land that belonged to their ancestors, but they do not hold the title today.

The wealth and progress of south Taranaki is a constant reminder of opportunities lost to their people. It's like a sore that will not heal.

The confiscation of their land was not just an economic disaster for those people, it was a social and cultural disaster. Where were the people to go? Where were they to live? How were the whanau to look after each other?

The confiscation of land led directly to the breakdown of communities. The consequences of that today are problems of tribal organisation and leadership, social dislocation and alienation from the very essence of our whakapapa, wairua and so on.

The loss of land was also a cultural disaster in that the history of tangata whenua is rooted in our landscapes - in our place names, in our hills and valleys and rivers and swamps.

When the bush is cleared and the swamps are drained, and when the people can no longer visit their special places, that history is gradually lost. The history is part of our tribal identity.

The settlement of historical claims is not just compensation for economic losses - it is about the restoration of the people to their proper place in the world. For reconciliation to happen, we must acknowledge the truth of this shameful history.

Settlements of past wrongs are absolutely necessary for tangata whenua to advance, acknowledging the impacts of the past on the present and totally committed to a future with the right to be, and the right to develop, socially, culturally and economically, in our own indigenous way.

We must return to the whanau collective responsibility and obligation, affirm our whanau positively, provide strong and disciplined leadership, respect the mana and dignity of all people, and affirm that within our own tikanga lie many of the answers to our issues.

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