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Archbishop Brown Turei's reflection on Waitangi Day

Here's the full text of Archbishop Brown Turei's reflection on the 175th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi.

Archbishop Brown Turei  |  04 Feb 2015

Engari ko te kawenata tēnei e whakaritea e ahau, e ai tā Ihowa; Ka hoatu e ahau taku ture ki ō rātau wāhi i roto, ka tuhituhia anō ki tō rātau ngākau; a ko ahau hei Atua mō rātou, ko rātou hei iwi māku.

For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. – Jeremiah 31:33

Our God is a God of Covenant and Promise. God speaks, and it is so. God honours His covenants, and keeps His promises.

God invites us to be the same - to be people of our word, to be people who honour our covenants, and who keep our promises.

The Treaty of Waitangi is more than just a simple document. It is more than just the sum of its articles, and its language of governance and property rights.

The Treaty is a spiritual covenant, and a moral promise. It was made so by the presence of the chiefs, the iwi, the missionaries, the settlers, and the representatives of the British Crown who gathered at Waitangi on the 6th of February, 1840.

The signing of the Treaty of Waitangi involved the extension of great trust, and the acceptance of great risk, by both parties.

The Pākehā who were there must have understood that they were hopelessly outnumbered, and utterly dependent on the gracious hospitality that was being extended to them by Māori.

The Māori who were there must have understood that they were utterly dependent on the trustworthiness of the Pākehā who stood before them, and on the greater potential for relationship and unity that the Treaty promised.

And so they signed, and Captain William Hobson declared, “He iwi kōtahi tātau.”

“We are now one people.”

Forever intertwined

For better or for worse, Hobson was right. By signing the Treaty, Māori and Pākehā become irrevocably connected. Our destinies, our fate, and our mana became forever intertwined.

Our journey together has not always been good. It can be said that for the first 100 years of the Treaty, Pākehā did much to ignore their obligations. It was a century of war, bloodshed, the mass confiscation of Māori land, and the marginalisation of the Māori race.

In 1940, during the 100th Anniversary of the signing of the Treaty, leaders and chiefs gathered once more at the sacred ground of Waitangi. Sir Apirana Ngata stood and said:

“I do not know of any year the Maori people have approached with so much misgiving as this Centennial Year … In retrospect what does the Maori see? Lands gone, the power of chiefs humbled in the dust, Maori culture scattered and broken.

“What remained of all the fine things said 100 years ago? 

“Before proceeding further with the new century, it is the clear duty of the Government to try to wipe out the mistakes of the past 100 years.

By 1990, and the 150th Anniversary of the signing of the Treaty, the relationship between Māori and Pākehā had improved, and Treaty grievances were being acknowledged and settled. But, as the then Bishop of Aotearoa Te Whakahuihui Vercoe noted in his speech at Waitangi that day, there was much more to be done:

“Some of us have come here to celebrate, some to commemorate, some to commiserate, but some to remember what happened on this sacred ground.

“But since the signing of that Treaty 150 years ago I want to remind our partners that you have marginalised us. You have not honoured the Treaty. We have not honoured each other in the promises we made on this sacred ground. 

“May God give us the courage to be honest with one another, to be sincere with one another, and above all to love one another in the strength of God.

Now we find ourselves here in 2015, the 175th year since the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi.

What can we say has changed since the signing of the Treaty? What has changed since the 100th Anniversary of its signing? What has changed since the 150th Anniversary?

A falling short

Some may say that much has been done to right historic wrongs, but I feel that the offer of a few cents as reparation for every dollar stolen falls far short of the promise and potential of the Treaty of Waitangi.

If we can renew within ourselves the faith and the courage of our forebears who first signed the Treaty, we may well rise to fulfill our true potential as one people:

If our sense of servanthood can overpower our sense of entitlement;

If our hunger for justice can overpower our selfish greed;

If our hope can be more relentless than our grievance;

And if our love can be more powerful than our litigation;

We will fulfill the greater promise of the Treaty of Waitangi: One people, united.

Until then, we need to pray for peace, and to strive to deal with injustice and oppression.

Nā tōu rourou, nā tāku rourou, ka mākona te iwi.

We are all in this together.

• • • •

Ahakoa nā Te Pīhopa o Aotearoa ēnei kōrero, e whakaae ana āku hoa Ātipīhopa ko ēnei te kōrero ā mātau ki te iwi mō te Tahi Rau Whitu Tekau mā Rima o Te Tiriti o Waitangi. Nō reira, kia tau te manaakitanga a Te Atua ki a tātau katoa i Aotearoa- Niu Tireni, i tēnei rā mō Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

While I offer this reflection firstly as Te Pīhopa o Aotearoa, my fellow Archbishops and I join together in offering this on behalf of us all. May the blessing of God be extended to all in Aotearoa-New Zealand on this Waitangi Day.