Friday, 24 August 2018

Learning the Trick of Standing Upright Here

Stuff recently ran a great series of stories as part of a special project called NZ Made/Nā Nīu Tīreni that included information about every modern Treaty of Waitangi settlement, maps of Māori land loss and explanations about how had this occurred. As


"New Zealand has not done well at grappling with its past. The unsettling truth about how this country was made is still not well understood. It has not been adequately taught in our schools. Our popular culture hasn't reflected it well enough. And our media has failed to tell it loudly and clearly.
The Treaty of Waitangi, and its subsequent betrayals, is the heart of how New Zealand was made. We need to reckon with what happened in order to understand the Treaty settlements process that continues today."

Tūrangawaewae – a place to stand. For me Allen Curnow's immortal lines 'Not I, some child, born in a marvellous year/Will learn the trick of standing upright here' are the starting point. Has that child been born yet? I hope so. I think so. Perhaps they come from Ōtorohanga, where a school trip back in 2014 led to a petition, and big things grew from there.

And what is that trick? Well, I would suggest a big part of it is reconciling ourselves with the history of this country. Not the imagined history of a plucky wee nation at the bottom of the globe, punching above its weight, egalitarian and forward looking. I'm talking about the messy, complicated history of how Pākehā colonised this land. Then-Prime Minister John Key's 2014 insistence that New Zealand was settled peacefully was widely ridiculed at the time. But the sentiments that underlay that statement retain an enduring appeal for some. Those people haven't learnt the trick.

A mature nation takes ownership of its history, not just cherry-picking the good bits out to remember but also acknowledging the bad stuff as well. Moving confidently into the future requires a robust understanding of where we have come from and been.

Auckland Museum Hall of Memories New Zealand Wars Alcove


Reconciling ourselves to the history of this land – finding a place to stand – is not just about supporting the settlement of historical Treaty of Waitangi claims. That's part of the story but not the whole solution. It's about ordinary New Zealanders taking the time to acknowledge and even own this history. Learn about it, respect it, pass it on, make sure your children and their children learn these stories too. Not so they can feel guilty or ashamed about the actions of their ancestors. But so they can be big enough, and confident enough, to say, 'yes, this is part of our history too' (alongside the things we feel good about today, like all those people who stood up against injustices in the past when they saw them).

Read the rest of the article here