Happy Waitangi Day to my fellow New Zealanders.
OK, yes, there is some dissension about the treaty. But whatever you think about it, it was a seminal event in the history of our country.
This special day is an appropriate opportunity for me to link back to an old article and slideshow on my blog, about my experience on a similar day back in 1990 when I was lucky enough to take part in the 150th anniversary reenactment of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi :
2 thoughts on “Happy Waitangi Day”
I jumped across to look at the re-enactment post. Pretty cool. I think the Treaty has been subject to a good deal of re-invention, as has a good deal that went on about that time in terms of our nation founding. I summarised the key documentary elements behind it in my general history of New Zealand, a decade or so ago – raised no eyebrows; it was conventional history, though perhaps not quite the way the Treaty has been portrayed popularly since. But a couple of years ago I wrote a piece for the Listener on the 1835 Declaration of Independence – which provoked a good deal of comment. Again, it was all thoroughly conventional history (which the Listener, I discovered later, felt obliged to confirm with Culture and Heritage), but none of the readers seemed to believe it. One even suggested that I’d been writing a fantasy – another chapter in that science fiction history book I wrote for Penguin a few years back. Incredible, given that the documentation is all there on the public record!
For me the intriguing part of the Treaty story is that re-invention – the way the document itself has been re-cast and re-interpreted time and again to suit contemporary need, starting very soon after it was signed. And that, to me, says that in a historical sense ti was – and remains – a living document.
I don’t know if it would’ve become a ‘living document’ had both parties to the original treaty had a clear understanding of what it was that was being signed to.
However, the different translations, not to mention the different mindsets of the two cultures, meant that didn’t/couldn’t happen, and so we now end up with such a living document.
I wonder how things would have turned out had the Treaty of Waitangi been written and signed in a consistently understood form by both parties? Or even if the parties would’ve agreed to sign in the first place had they both had the same understanding?
I think it is wonderful that both parties are still talking to each other and negotiating (ie ‘living’) despite the differences, and that with all its failings, the Treaty of Waitangi still stands and still lives..
Maybe it’ll live as long as the Treaty of Windsor between England and Portugal (600 plus years and still going strong). Though I suspect there that both parties had a similar understanding of what they were signing to.