Wednesday, February 6 is Waitangi Day, a time to reflect on our past and present, but more importantly, the future of our nation, our relationship to each other as peoples of diverse backgrounds, and our relationship with our environment.
Almost 180 years ago, under the world-wide impact of the forces of colonisation and imperialism, two peoples and two different cultures met in the northern region of Aotearoa New Zealand. The discussion that took place focused on an arrangement between two sovereign nations. An agreement was forged in the form of an international treaty. Without the benefit of foresight no one at the time could have envisaged that the world and wellbeing of the hosting Indigenous peoples, Maori, was so deeply imperilled.
Partly premised on a concern for the wellbeing of Maori, a treaty, Te Tiriti of Waitangi was signed by representatives of the English Crown and Maori chiefs. Although the Tiriti was drafted in the languages of the two signing parties, the translated texts were not identical leading to misinterpretation and later, conflict. History shows that the agreement was not honoured by the English Crown, their representatives and the immigrant groups that settled in Aotearoa New Zealand. This betrayal led to a catastrophic impact on Maori, especially the loss of resources and culture – from land and societal institutions to values, knowledge and way of life. The imprint of this attack on the soul and spirit is still being experienced today.
Due mainly to Maori leadership, and other leaders of like minds and heart, Te Tiriti was gradually reinstituted and factored into our constitutional frameworks, public psyche and policies. While we have advanced, with many of the injustices and losses for Maori addressed, we still have many roads to traverse together at all levels, if we are to fully recover as a nation and be a responsible member of our global community. Meanwhile, and relatively speaking, our journey through the pangs of transition over the last few decades offers many lessons to other nations and states on how to live, love and be just and fair to our fellow human beings – individually and institutionally.
Each year, Waitangi Day gives us a much-needed opportunity to pause and ponder the progress we have made on our collective effort towards our collective wellbeing; to learn from and to celebrate how we as individuals and collectives have risen to our natural, higher selves, and to acknowledge that through genuine collaboration and reconciliation we will continue to progress. Conflicts, discrimination and domination are things of the past, a recipe for ongoing disasters, a no-win situation for all, where an eye for an eye will make us all blind.
In light of our inter-connectedness and our common future as a nation, it is heartening to see the range of contributions from all sectors and communities to our collective future, as we learn from past follies.
Small but significant, the Health Promotion Forum of New Zealand, Runanga Whakapiki Ake I Te Hauora O Aotearoa (HPF) is making such contributions through its work, including co-hosting the next World Conference on Health Promotion from April 7-11, 2019 in Rotorua. Te Tiriti informs the organising of the conference:
• Te Reo is one of the four official languages of the conference, a world-first;
• at least two Maori leaders will be keynote speakers; one of them will speak in Te Reo while it will be simultaneously translated into English, French and Spanish;
• Maori leadership is at the front of all aspects of the process and on all levels, under the principle of equal partnership;
• an Indigenous Statement, one of the major legacies of the conference, will articulate Indigenous perspectives on how to advance our wellbeing as fellow human beings, and how to be better and more effective stewards of our common home – Ranginui and Papatuanuku, also known as Mother Earth.
As Executive Director of HPF, I invite you to participate at the conference. World leaders and experts in public health, health promotion, planetary health and wellbeing and sustainable development will come and share their knowledge. Let us gift our knowledge in return. Let us continue to work together for the wellbeing of our nation, and our global society, for the world is but one country, and humankind its citizens.
Here’s the link for your information and registration. www.iuhpe2019.com See you in Rotorua!
Banner photo: Waitangi in the Bay of Islands.