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Tariana Turia's Beehive Chat 4 November 2002


Beehive Chat 4 November 2002

October the 28th, last week, was not only Labour Day, it was also the anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence of the United Tribes of Aotearoa in 1835.

The Declaration of Independence is directly linked to tikanga, and justice, and how you judge what is tika and what is just.

Justice is at the heart of all our tikanga. 'Tikanga' means the right, proper, appropriate or correct way of doing things. It can't be tika if it creates injustice.

The tikanga of our tupuna, and their ideas of what was just, were part of their whanau way of life. Within the whanau, each individual was accountable to the group, and the group took responsibility for individual members. Tikanga were designed to strengthen the whanau.

The survival and welfare of the whanau was paramount. This was how our tupuna judged a situation. If the actions of an individual put the whanau at risk, they were wrong and could be punished.

In the Declaration of Independence, our tupuna asserted their rangatiratanga, and their right to live their own way of life according to their own tikanga. This document is such a clear and powerful statement of their mana, it brings tears to your eyes to read it.

The status and rights asserted in the Declaration of Independence were guaranteed protection in the Treaty of Waitangi, five years later.

As they say, what followed is history. Promises were broken, guarantees forgotten, our people were attacked and robbed and our culture, our tikanga, were undermined.

Published histories are only now rediscovering the truth. Look at the latest Mana magazine, or read Paul Moon's recent book 'Te Ara ki te Tiriti - the Path to the Treaty'.

Our peoples' oral histories recorded the history more reliably. We understand how we came to be where we are today.

So tangata whenua get frustrated when official agencies tell us how to solve 'our' problems. We are the targets of campaigns to prevent family violence and neglect, to improve our health and our education. These campaigns can further undermine our rangatiratanga.

The issues are only symptoms. We tell those agencies to focus on the cause of the problem. Dig down to the roots of what's gone wrong. Start with the Declaration of Independence, and our peoples' vision for the future.

As whanau ora, with our own rangatiratanga, I am quite certain tangata whenua could manage issues of concern to get a better result than we have achieved through the system imported from Britain. We invite official agencies to support us.

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