Tuia 250 – Reconciling our Fraught Past to Move Forward

When do we know that we have arrived as a nation to a place where we can feel like – ‘This is the Country I am proud to call home?’.

This year a series of events will be hosted around the country to commemorate one aspect of Aotearoa New Zealand’s history. I consider it another step in the mature conversation we must have. One that is prepared to shed the rose tinted view of New Zealand history to ensure that the Maori experience and stories are given an equal measure of attention. This is not controversial – but rather necessary and an evolution of the process our country has undertaken to redress historical wrongs and reconcile long-held hurt and pain. There is rongoā (medicine or healing) in this approach.

The arrival of the Endeavour, Captain Cook, Sir Joseph Banks and his crew two hundred and fifty years ago was predicted by tohunga (experts) and rangatira (chiefs) around the motu (country). While they may have foreseen the unknown, they may not have foreshadowed the intergenerational impact that such an encounter would have.

So here we are, a relatively young country impacted by colonisation. Yet we are brave enough to confront an important juncture of our nation’s journey, to acknowledge the pain of the past and the hope of the future. We must do this as a legacy contribution to the most important conversation of our time, and that is the constitutional foundation of our country born of the Treaty of Waitangi.

If we remain committed and engaged as the Crown, the Government, Treaty Partners and the citizens of Aotearoa New Zealand to this discourse, then we will arrive at a better place. It would be easy to ‘change the channel’ or ‘turn the volume down’, but that would be complicit with the apathy that will breed division rather than togetherness. We need a change for good.

Rebalancing the historical narrative and local stories is not open license to hold the current generation to ransom for the wrongful acts of the past. It is about holding ourselves to account with each other and how we work through the next step of meaningful reconciliation. That’s why the statement of regret issued by the British High Commissioner to the people of Ngāti Oneone and Rongowhakaata was particularly poignant. It was the right thing to do and the time to do this was at the commemorative event of Tuia250. I am sure that the relationship that will ensue between the British High Commission and the local Turanganui-a-Kiwa people will grow and flourish. These are the small but deliberate steps that are being taken to move forward in the right way.

Sometimes we need to understand others to truly understand ourselves. As we consider the ocean voyaging legacy of Captain Cook and his forebears, I continue to admire the expertise, knowledge, faith and fortitude of our Polynesian ancestors. Tuia250 has a travelling flotilla made up of Waka Hourua, and this has been a renaissance which has been cultivated over the past forty years across the Pacific. It is the epitome of traditional knowledge that reinforces the depth of mātauranga (traditional knowledge) preserved and carried through generations of pūrākau (story-telling), waiata (song), whakapapa (genealogy), observation and wānanga (applied teaching). These are the experiences that our young people and sea fearing enthusiasts have volunteered to participate in as they join both the Endeavour and the Waka Hourua fleet to sail around the country over the next couple of months. Their experiences will be life-changing, and they too are building the bridge between our histories, our peoples, and our cultures.

I am hopeful that we are mature enough to confront our past ‘warts and all’ to be able to be very clear about the matters we must address now to move forward with confidence that all our children will benefit from. Nāu mai e te tī, nāu mai e te tā, Tūrou Hawaiiki!

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