People Power: This is where the Ihumatao protest now rests. On the ability of the protesters/protectors to muster sufficient support to make the government intervene. The story they have to tell, if related firmly and courageously, and without resort to violence, is utterly compelling. It is enough to ensure that, just for a moment, the colonisers are forced to gaze upon the world they have destroyed; and acknowledge the brutal injustices which that destruction entailed. To make this government understand that colonisation isn’t something that happened in the past, it’s something which is happening right now.
IHUMATAO is not about the law. The law is what makes the Ihumatao protest necessary. Ihumatao is not about colonisation. Ihumatao is colonisation in action.
What is happening right now at Ihumatao is about the New Zealand state not knowing how to deal with Maori. According to the State’s version of events Ihumatao is a done deal. It’s about private property and the rights of private property owners. It’s about all those institutions supposedly dedicated to protecting the rights of Maori saying: “It’s out of our hands. There’s nothing we can do. Everything that’s happening here is happening within the law.”
It’s always been this way. Go all the way back to 1863, when the Maori people who lived at Ihumatao were declared rebels and the colonial government sequestrated their land. That was within the law. And when their land was parcelled-up and distributed to Pakeha farmers? That, too, we are told, was within the law. And when their sacred mountain was quarried away until nothing was left of it but a hole in the ground? Also lawful. Because the law affirms that the Pakeha landowner had a perfect right to dispose of his property as he saw fit. Everything that has happened to the people of Ihumatao has happened in accordance with the laws of the New Zealand state. Except, of course, when a private business allowed thousands of litres of poisonous dye to flow into their sacred river. That, apparently, was not lawful. Not that declaring it illegal restored the river to health.
So what do you do? When the seizure of your lands, and the selling of them to strangers, and the destruction of your mountain, and the relentless impoverishment and marginalisation of your people, is all declared to be legal and above board? When there is nowhere to go, and no one to turn to, for protection. When even your elders have lost the will to go on fighting. What is there left for you to do?
This is how colonisation works. It changes your world. It changes the people in charge of your world. It affords you less and less space to move about freely in your world. It limits your right to make decisions affecting your world. And it goes on doing this until, bit by bit, year by year, your world disappears. That is the whole point of the colonising process. To replace one world: the world belonging to the people who were there first with another; the world belonging to the people who came later. This new world is the colonisers’ world, and it serves their needs – exclusively.
The most important thing to bear in mind when you’re thinking about colonisation is that it hasn’t stopped. It can’t stop. It has to keep operating in the present just as forcefully as it operated in the past. The legal title to Ihumatao, determined in the 1860s, cannot be restored to the land’s original occupiers except by securing the intervention of the very same legal system that sanctioned its confiscation. And, surprise, surprise, we discover that no legal mechanisms currently exist for the Ihumatao protesters to secure that intervention.
Which still leaves the fundamental question – “ What is to be done?” – unanswered. Clearly, the solution does not lie in a courtroom. But when has it ever for the victims of colonisation?
What is taking place at Ihumatao is occurring in a political space that is, essentially, outside the law. What’s unfolding there is a ritual of challenge and response. The protesters are saying: “This development must not proceed.” Demonstrating its power, the state has sent in a hundred or so police officers, saying, effectively: “Or you’ll what?” The only practical answer of the protesters is the one they have already given: “Or, we’ll surround this place with so many people that you’ll have to call in hundreds of police and soldiers (just like you did at Bastion Point) to move us on. And the political consequences of applying that level of force will be devastating for the government.
It is only in this political realm: a place of power where the law is irrelevant, that the issue can be decided in favour of the protesters. The government and, to a lesser extent, the Police must, accordingly, be compelled to calculate the political consequences of using the force needed to permanently clear the Ihumatao site. They must contemplate the way in which the legal system that big developers (in this case, Fletchers) rely upon to make and keep their profits is likely to be used by the protesters. Persons arrested must be brought to trial, and trials can easily be transformed into embarrassing political theatre.
That’s where it rests. On the ability of the defenders of Ihumatao to muster sufficient on-the-ground support to make the government intervene. The story they have to tell, if related firmly and courageously, and without resort to violence, is utterly compelling. It is enough to ensure that, just for a moment, the colonisers are forced to gaze upon the world they have destroyed; and acknowledge the brutal injustices which that destruction entailed. To make this government understand that colonisation isn’t something that happened in the past, it’s something which is happening right now. The Ihumatao story is powerful enough to turn the age-old question around. To make it no longer “What can we do?”, but “What are they going to do?”
This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Friday, 26 July 2019.
I believe the people at Mangere were given the choice of declaring loyalty to the Crown or leaving. They chose to leave and fight. I’m not sure of the relationship between the wars and present day levels of poverty. J. D. Gould analysed socio economic levels by tribal affiliation and concluded that differences were related to the degree of intermarriage and assimilation rather than history.
Thanks Chris, the law, government, courts and police are simply agents of colonisation;
this needs to be sorted out in the time honoured pre-colonisation way.
The Iwi and Fletchers need to raise a militia and take control over the protesters, perhaps bag a few slaves in the process. My ancestor, Hongi Hika, was highly successful with this approach.
Might is right, war is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength; it's back to the future.
"J. D. Gould analysed socio economic levels by tribal affiliation and concluded that differences were related to the degree of intermarriage and assimilation rather than history."
Gould was a little bit more cautious than that. And Callister suggested that people with lighter skin colour might encounter less discrimination. It's not as simple as you conservatives seem to think.
I think your belief John, is ill founded.
"This land, known as Puketāpapa, was confiscated ‘by proclamation’ under the New Zealand Settlements Act in 1863 as part of the colonial invasion of the Waikato that drove mana whenua of South Auckland from their lands ahead of the settler armies. These Crown actions breached the partnership agreement forged in the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi."
What I find disingenuous is that those promoting decolonisation have no road map. This is all a big laugh (pass the pop-corn). Those like Gareth Morgan who say “the resources belong to Maori” forget that the Treaty is ultimately between the New Zealand Public and the descendants of the Maori people. People like Vincent O’Malley seem to believe that colonisation nipped a new type of collective economic system in the bud. I think that eventually such as system would have become very much like what we have today?
We have just been treated to the two part series That's a Bit Racist and 15 articles by Stuff journalists based on the claim that Maori outcomes are the result of colonisation?
For who can dispute that, at one time, the entire geographical entity we call New Zealand was the property of Maori collectivities?
And, if they have a customary right to New Zealand's beaches, then why not its rivers, estuaries, swamps, lakes, forests and everything else?
I suspect National Party voters see things a little differently.
In greeting Mr Iti so warmly at Waitangi, has Mr Key taken his campaign for the Maori Party's support a hongi too far?
Glad you appreciate the problem Chris?
Ooh-er give them Maori an inch and they will take a mile eh?
If the Maori sovereignty movement want to find out what New Zealand would be like without British colonisation might I suggest they visit Samoa, Tonga or the Solomon Islands.
Grinding poverty, corrupt government, crap education, crap health care.
Before WW-2 there were less than 1000 Pasifika living in New Zealand, now there are over 300,000.
PAsifika excel in sport and entertainment but in all other fields of human endeavour they are worse than Maori.
If their cultures are so wonderful, why are their homelands corrupt, impoverished Third World shitholes?
My 19-th century tupuna Maori got shafted by British colonialism. But I enjoy and appreciate the fact that I live in one of only two First World countries in the entire southern hemisphere.
Perhaps Maori should have their own independent state. Northland seems eminently suitable. Let us see how those who wave around tino rangatiratanga and united tribes flags get along without the money and resources of the evil Pakeha.
Now now Shane, there is a nicer way to make your points... Points, yes that about 75% of NZers believe. Like this. This is what little school children should be taught, not the nonsense the protesters have been told by PC teachers:
NZ culture came from two sources, neither of which exists intact today. And that matters.
Western culture was obviously superior in telling ways to Polynesian culture, otherwise the latter’s people would have sailed up the Thames and taken over Britain, then Europe & the rest of the world.
But this superior culture was also morally ambitious when it came here so wrote up a treaty with the local clans. It made them all equal citizens under British law, and they went for it with both hands. Maori became Western right then, as it is a culture anyone can join, as no ancestral connection is required. That is part of its genius. Together they created the mostly Western success story that is NZ today. And NZ is one of the best in the West, which is saying something indeed, as in this world the West is the best, so far. Yes children, we can always do better … But back to the story.
Now that treaty also said one other important thing and that was the locals would not have their land confiscated unlawfully. But quite a bit was and so, now we are a democracy, the people through their elected representatives can settle some old land disputes. And locals can settle local disputes…
But today, it is an absolutely fundamental truth that for a long time now there are no settlers and there are no pre treaty Maori here. All are dead and we are no longer a colony of two peoples. Maori are bicultural to varying degrees yes, but above all just NZers with some Maori heritage. All people who are born here are equal before the law and regarded as New Zealanders by a huge majority. To that super majority there are no other people who really count here and definitely no other laws.
So the people occupying that patch up north are acting like colonisers of old themselves, outside the law which is their law, as they are NZers. They may think they are purely Maori but really a person cannot just identify as they wish. It is the world you come into that makes you and your identity is imposed by it. It is not in your blood. So those people are NZers, breaking their own laws.
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