Nation’s history needs healing

It just so happens that lately I have been thinking about the importance of healing our nation’s history.

Well to be fair, I have been thinking about it for the past 30 years or so.

The journey for me started in the 1990s when I attended an early childhood seminar and learned about the many pieces of legislation that discriminate against Māori.

I remember being shocked at the time, but not nearly as distressed as I was 10 years later when I took part in a University of Canterbury Māori education paper.

I spent most of the year wrestling with what I was hearing about colonialism, and how the education system had contributed to the oppression and marginalising of Māori — which it continues to do so today.

I suspect many of us who disagree with the Government’s attempts to honour the Treaty of Waitangi principles of partnership, protection and participation are unaware of another side of our history that was not taught at school.

Knowing our history can broaden our perspective and give insight into what the Government is attempting to do.

Most of us have not heard iwi had thriving economies in the 19th century, and were exporting the crops they grew in ships they owned to Australia and other parts of the world.

While Māori may be outnumbered by those of European descent now, they were not in 1840 when the Treaty of Waitangi was signed.

They were also better educated than many of the Europeans living here who, out of reach of mother England, tended to be a lawless lot.

The first te reo Māori newspaper was published in 1842.

Collectively they owned 27 million hectares of land.

In the span of 50 years or so this changed as the European population and culture became dominant despite a treaty which promised to protect the rights of Māori and to partner with them.

When I think about what Māori have lost as a result of the colonising process, I am motivated to play my part, to challenge the imperialist and racist thinking that allowed this to happen.

I am starting with myself, because my theory is all of us have an inner racist voice that needs to be taught to be accepting of difference.

Our nation’s history does need healing, not for our sakes, but for those who come after us.