Thursday, February 5, 2009

Waitangi Day

Today it's a public holiday here. It's also the first week of the new school year, so it makes for a nice easing back into things with a short week.

For my non NZ readers.....Waitangi Day is where we celebrate the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, which is considered by most to be the founding document of the nation. Signed by Maori chiefs and representatives of the English Crown on the 6th February 1840 at a spot called Waitangi.

The Treaty was meant to be a partnership between Maori and the colonisers, offering protection for those things that Maori held dear, and a way forward for new settlers to make a new home here. For those who had land confiscated/sold illegally, who were forced from their anscestral lands, who were banned from participating in traditional activities in the years following the signing, the Treaty didn't deliver on the promise of a new relationship. In the past Waitangi Day celebrations have been marred by violent protests by those wanting to highlight Treaty injustices and remains a topic in which there is often heated debate.

In today's world the Treaty is at the fore of governmental activities concerning Maori and there are processes for trying to recognise and amend wrongs done in the past. While some see this as a never ending gravy train, others see the apologies, reparations and new partnership agreements as a positive way forward for iwi to once again be in control of their own activities and direction. The mood at Waitangi these days is one of celebration and reflection and moving forward.

waitangi view from treaty grounds
View from the Treaty Grounds at Waitangi

For those that live in Paihia & Waitangi today will see the sleepy little tourist town (pop about 4,000) swell, as thousands of people come to join in the official celebrations. This year they are expecting around 45,000 people to visit the Treaty Grounds over the long weekend.

We were living in Paihia for the past two Waitangi Days. It was amazing to see the crowds come to town, the lower marae fill with visitors, the streets shut off, the bridge full of people walking up the hill to the Treaty Grounds - the site where the Treaty was signed. I am so grateful we had the opportunity to be part of celebrating our nation's history.

This year it is a strange feeling to watch it all on TV and see sights so familiar yet be so removed from them.

waitangi meeting house
Meeting house at Waitangi Treaty Grounds

For some Waitangi Day is simply a day off to enjoy the summer sun.

For others it is a day to reflect on our nation's journey.

For me this year I will be remembering our time living in Paihia and the friends we left behind.


Fi said...

She is a special old day indeed. Were you aware of the Declaration of Independence, signed about 5y earlier?

INterestingly this seems to be far more thorough than the treaty, looks after the Maori alot more, and it regarded by many as the true founding document - or at least the basis for the treaty. Unfortunately few know about it....

Happy Waitangi Day - I wonder if the flags are flying on the Harbour Bridge?

Denise said...

A very interesting post, thanks for sharing. I'm originally from England and now in Texas and have never heard of Waitangi Day. The picture of the treaty grounds is just gorgeous. Hope you enjoy the day.

sweetp said...

Fi. Yes , totally. Thought my little history lesson was long enough as it was lol. Great link thanks xx

Denise - enjoy today's little NZ history lesson, well my perspective on it anyway :)

Rose Red said...

It's interesting how our two histories are so similar and so different. Thanks for the little lesson too! Hope you have a lovely long weekend!

Aunt Kathy said...

learning somnething new here all the time. The pictures are great

Little Grubs said...

Hi again! We're just back into the land of the living, and broadband, and I've been catching up a little. My you've been busy - what great knitting and in this heat!!! We've travelled a lot of NZ but have never made it north of Warkworth so seeing your lovely pics and coverage on TV has reminded me that I want to go. But then again I want to come down south again, and also to Te Urewera, and back to the Bay of Plenty .... and so and so on! You have a fantastic country here and we are so happy to be back!!! x

amanda said...

This is such an interesting post! I hope you manahe to enjoy the day anyway despite the distance. :)

Linda Jordan said...

Hi Gabes,
was actually listening to the radio this morning and they were talking all about the Waitangi Day, it sounded fascinating. They also said that New Zealand was the first country in the world to give women equal rights. I hope you and yours have a wonderful day.