Deep Symbolism in Site Choice For Signing of Treaty
Deep Symbolism in Site Choice For Signing of Ngati Kuri Treaty Settlement
When the people of Ngāti Kuri meet with the Minister of Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations at Te Rerenga Wairua/Cape Reinga to sign a Deed of Settlement on February 7 the location of the signing will be deeply symbolic and significant for all Maori.
Te Rerenga Wairua is the place Maori traditionally believe the spirits of those who pass go to before they leave Aotearoa.
The Minister, the Hon Chris Finlayson QC, on behalf of the Crown, will sign the settlement after five years of negotiations.
Chairman of the Ngāti Kuri Trust Board, Harry Burkhardt, said it has been a long journey to get to a place where the Crown and Ngāti Kuri have a better understanding of each other.
“As a people we have always known who we are and where we are from. However, since 1840 Ngāti Kuri has suffered the ignominy of having the Crown refuse to acknowledge the existence of our ancient iwi, its mana, tikanga and rangatiratanga.”
Burkhardt said the negotiation process had allowed the Crown to get to know Ngāti Kuri and it is because of that improved understanding, and acknowledgement of the reasons why the relationship has been broken, that a settlement has been made possible. He said the signing will be a day of joy and of deep reflection about those who have gone before, and of the future that is before Ngāti Kuri.
“While we are pleased to have reached agreement and our people have voted in favour of signing a Deed of Settlement, we are mindful our ancestors cried out for acknowledgement and recognition for a very long time. Therefore, it is with deep sadness we reflect that so many passed on before this settlement could be concluded. However, Te Rerenga Wairua, where the deed will be signed, is the last place their spirits would have stood before departing this world. By signing this document at Te Rerenga Wairua we are acknowledging them.”
Once the people of Ngāti Kuri moved throughout the northern peninsula following the seasonal cycles for gardening, fishing and food gathering. But within a few years of 1840 their lives became difficult.
But Harry Burkhardt said rather than focus on those years of disadvantage this settlement has created the opportunity for a new conversation within his people that is focused on what their future will be like and what they are going to make of it.
The settlement involves cultural redress, historical redress, commercial redress and most importantly for Ngāti Kuri, a Crown apology for not having honoured its obligations and responsibilities under the Te Tiriti o Waitangi (Treaty of Waitangi). Within that apology is recognition the Crown failed to recognise the mana and rangatiratanga of Ngāti Kuri as an iwi in the Far North even though Ngāti Kuri is an ancient iwi descended from the first Ariki (chief) to settle Te Hiku o Te Ika (the tail of the fish).
Burkhardt said the focus of Ngāti Kuri has been on the return of land in whatever form that takes. This settlement will see one of the single largest tracts of Department of Conservation managed land being returned.
“The Crown now acknowledges those things that are implicit – we are tangata whenua, we have kaitiaki roles, we have the ability to self-determine outcomes. The Crown after 1840 failed to acknowledge our rangatiratanga and our tikanga; now the Crown acknowledges our rangitiratanga and tikanga. These things are significant.”
The Ngāti Kuri contemporary rohe extends from Maunga Tohoraha (Mt Camel) in the east to Hukatere in the west north-west to Motuopao, across to Te Rerenga Wairua/Cape Reinga and then east to Murimotu, including the Three Kings Islands (Manawatáwhi) and the Kermadec Islands.
The signing will take place at 10am Friday February 7 at Te Rerenga Wairua.
A new post settlement governance entity, Te Manawa o Ngāti Kuri Trust, will hold and manage the Ngāti Kuri Treaty settlement assets.