Educators challenge attacks on Treaty
29 October 2006
A major national Treaty educators' conference over the weekend challenged the latest attempts to undermine the status of the Treaty of Waitangi.
The conference – attended by more than 40 community and institution based educators - marked 20 years of Treaty education undertaken since the launch of Project Waitangi. Project Waitangi, initially funded by the government, was established to raise awareness of the Treaty in the lead up to the 150th anniversary of the signing in 1990.
But spokeswoman Mitzi Nairn said the work of Treaty educators is still being undermined by what appears to be a deliberate campaign to sideline the Treaty - including emphasis being given to an English text which incorrectly states that Maori ceded sovereignty to the Crown.
"New Zealanders have nothing to fear from acknowledging the Maori text of the Treaty which clearly shows that Maori retained their sovereignty while also allowing the Crown to exercise a form of governance."
"In 1840 the only one confused was Governor Hobson who believed that the treaty he signed was the same one as the treaty of cession he had drafted.
"We are alarmed that visitors to Te Papa and the Treaty 2 U Roadshow, for example, are not given a correct translation of the Treaty, but are instead shown an English text as if it were a direct translation. In our experience, people readily accept the major differences in the two texts and feel empowered by being able to compare them.
"Rather than creating confusion, for many this understanding is the key to unlocking the historical puzzle, creating a balanced framework from which to view the effects of colonisation which form the basis of our current cultural and constitutional issues."
In international law the meaning of treaties written in indigenous languages are given preference over texts in the coloniser’s language.
Ms Nairn, former director of the Conference of Churches Aotearoa/New Zealand Programme Opposing Racism, said the original aim of Project Waitangi was to undertake adult education over four years. However, educators had continued working to meet demand as schools had not been able to deliver comprehensive Treaty understanding to succeeding generations.
"We are alarmed that the new draft New Zealand curriculum document barely refers to the Treaty, which means we won’t be able to retire anytime soon. With the Treaty Information Unit of the State Services Commission also now closed down, we’re back at square one."
"There have been Treaty teaching resources available to schools, but these have emphasized an English text and obviously this cannot provide any real understanding of the issue."
She said the conference had also been deeply concerned at the Government’s continued opposition to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; as well as their support for the Deletion of the Principles of the Treaty of Waitangi Bill now before Parliament.
The conference marked the 171st anniversary of the signing of the precursor to the Treaty, the Declaration of the Independence of New Zealand by the Confederation of United Tribes.
"It is a tragedy that most New Zealanders are still unaware of this important political statement made by Maori in 1835 which was recognised internationally - another document that it appears Te Papa would prefer us not to know much about."
Media release: National Tangata Tiriti Educators Conference 2006