Kōrero with Margaret Mutu

Kōrero with Margaret Mutu

It was an evening of humour and song when broadcaster Moana Maniapoto (Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Tūhourangi, Ngāti Pikiao) warmly interviewed Professor Margaret Mutu (Ngāti Kahu, Te Rarawa, Ngāti Whātua) at the Samoa House in late March.

If you missed out on our sold out event, the full video is below!

The upbeat feeling was welcome and perhaps surprising, given the unprecedented attacks on Māori rights by the current government – but Margaret sees many reasons to hope. Firstly: “the next generation and my mokos are coming through in a way that is much more empowering for our people.” In the 1960s, at a Māori girls hostel, Margaret and her roommates were taught they’d only be factory workers or servants (and they cooked and cleaned for themselves – in contrast to the school’s own hostel where the daughters of wealthy Pākehā only had to make their beds). But in the last decade or so, Margaret sees “the young ones coming through confident in both te ao Māori and te ao Pākehā, and being able to succeed, and making it really clear to the country that the inequities for Māori are totally unacceptable and things must change. And that scares people. […] I think they’re scared that Māori having any say in this country is a threat to them whereas in actual fact, Māori have a responsibility to this country that we were given.”

That responsibility includes manaakitanga – caring for everyone. “We invited people in here, we are responsible for them,” says Margaret, referring to te Tiriti o Waitangi (see below). “But when you have dispossessed us […], we can’t do our job properly.”

Margaret’s Scottish immigrant mother “didn’t know how bad the racism was” until she married Margaret’s father, and it horrified her. “She told me and my brother ‘if someone tells you “you can’t do anything because you’re Māori”, don’t listen to them.’ It ended up getting me in a whole lot of a trouble, because I knew to look out for it, to defend myself from it. It still hurt terribly but at least I knew it was wrong.”

The second reason to hope is the “beautiful” feeling of Māori unity at Turangawaewae, at Ratana and at Waitangi – with a hui taumata set for May at Omāhu Marae near Hastings. One day, Margaret says, she will thank David Seymour for galvanising the Māori world. “I have never seen the national iwi chairs forum so united!”

That day is a long way off, however: Margaret points out the politician’s State of the Nation speech was a “masterclass in white supremacy and racism against Māori”, and says there’s a chance his Treaty Principles bill will become law.

She explained one of the differences between te Tiriti and the ethos of the principles bill: “Everything David Seymour wants is about the English cultural notion of the right of the individual. It’s a strong English notion – nothing wrong with it – it’s just different. But rangatiratanga does not meld at all with individual rights. Because the smallest unit over which the rangatira will have a say is the whānau.”

The job of the rangatira is to bring – to weave – the people together. “The rangatira’s job is not to dictate to people what’s go on; a rangatira’s job is to sit and listen to the people, and to make sure you’ve understood everything from every point of view you can possibly get. That’s why our hui are always open.” At the end of the hui, the rangatira guides the people to make a decision. “It’s not the rangatira’s decision, it has to be the people’s decision.” And so rangatiratanga is “about keeping the people together and making sure the people survives, and that they succeed and achieve what it is they want to achieve.”

Along with unity and the younger generation (kura kaupapa are getting fantastic results for tauira Māori), the third reason for hope is the support for Māori rights which Margaret sees from many non-Māori (or “tauiwi”, which Margaret describes as a “lovely” term literally meaning “the people who settle”). For example, Margaret is teaching scores of teachers in the Ngati Kahu rohe about the region’s history, so they can teach it in turn to their students.

“For the Māori side of it, we want to take back control of our own lives, we want to take back control of who we are, of who makes decisions for us – which is ourselves,” says Margaret. And in order to have the space to do that, she asks tauiwi to be the buffer between Māori and government.

An inspiring evening – and one which challenges us all to do our bit.

Tangata tiriti – how can non-Māori support tino rangatiratanga?

Overt and public tauiwi support of Māori rights is vital right now – we all have a part to play; now is the time to be loud. Margaret asks tauiwi to respond to current immediate attacks on Māori, to give Māori the space to work on long-term goals, such as Matike Mai. “We need our tauiwi allies to make the space for us, to get the government off our backs, so that we can just get on with it,” she says.

  • Push back against harmful government policy (eg, on social media, emails to politicians, letters to newspapers) – Margaret: “Can you please be a buffer between us and the government. They are really, really hurting our people.”
  • Defend Māori in everyday life – Margaret: The government are also “empowering people to attack us, in the streets, in the supermarkets in the schools, we are under attack. We would really appreciate it if people would come out and say ‘stop, stop what you are doing’.”
  • Educate yourself to educate others (eg in discussions with colleagues, friends & family)– Margaret: “There is a huge amount of confusion out there. People have to be given the information […] and be able to understand what is misinformation and what is disinformation.” For example, understand He Whakaputanga; read Waitangi Tribunal reports; know why the Māori Health Authority was established – to lessen the effects of institutionalised racism which (to take one example) means Māori don’t get sent to specialists as often as Pākehā. Such patterns horrify a lot of doctors, says Margaret, but they still happen. The seven-year life expectancy gap between Māori and non-Māori shows something needs to change.

Māori never ceded sovereignty – history all New Zealanders need to know

We do have a written constitution – He Whakaputenga and Te Tiriti – but the government will not recognise it.” – Margaret Mutu

He Whakaputenga o te Rangatiratanga o Nu Tirene (1835 declaration of independence/ sovereignty): stated the power and authority of the land sits with rangatira Māori, and not with non-Māori. Created in response to debaucherous, drunken Pākehā running amok and their lack of respect for tikanga (law), particularly at Kororāreka, the notorious “hellhole of the Pacific”. Signed initially by 34 northern rangatira (and later by others), sent to England and recognised by the Crown there in 1836.

Te Tiriti o Waitangi (1840): “Drawn up as an addendum to He Whakaputanga” as many lawless British subjects still would not abide by that main declaration.  Via te Tiriti, Māori generously allowed the immigration of non-Māori ( “tangata Tiriti”, ie those who are allowed in Aotearoa, thanks to te Tiriti), as long as the British Crown kept the lawless immigrants in line. Only around 2000 Pākehā were in Aotearoa at the time and Māori did not cede sovereignty to them – why would they? As Margaret says: “Our people weren’t stupid.”

Waitangi Tribunal (since 1975): Permanent commission, investigating recent, ongoing and (since 1985) historic breaches of te Tiriti by the Crown; and making recommendations as to how the Crown can stop breaching, make amends and start honouring te Tiriti. Hears district, urgent, and nationwide kaupapa (thematic) claims (including Wai 2575 on health services and outcomes). Established to take Māori rights protests off the streets, which were embarrassing the government internationally.

The evidence of Tiriti breaches is weighty and “irrefutable”. “That is why the Waitangi Tribunal has looked as if it is very supportive of Māori but in actual fact, it has erred on the side of the Crown. […] It  tries desperately to give the Crown advice that it can follow. But still they ignore them,” says Margaret. Therefore social and health outcomes for Māori continue to be poor.

While the Tribunal is criticised as “toothless” and doesn’t necessarily find in favour of claimants, it does understand Māori as Māori and “we do get to put things on the record,” says Margaret. The Tribunal holds enormous amounts of precious information.

Treaty Settlements Process (since 1994): A 1988 Court of Appeal ruling gave the Waitangi Tribunal power to order (not just recommend) the government to return land to Māori; the government response was to circumvent the Tribunal via direct “negotiations” with iwi and hapū.

The “propaganda” is that “the Crown wants to be honourable,” says Margaret. “But once you get into negotiations you find there is no ‘negotiations’. The Office of Treaty Settlements says to you: ‘This is what your settlement will be, you cannot argue, you have no rights effectively, you will do what we say.’” Some iwi have been told if they won’t accept the Crown apology, they won’t get anything. Margaret was negotiator for Ngati Kahu – who ultimately decided collectively not to accept the settlement offered. The Crown had told the negotiators that the process was confidential. Margaret: “Well, Ngati Kahu didn’t listen to that; we just took everybody with us. So they could see what went on.”

Matike Mai (future vision): With the late, great leader Moana Jackson, Margaret led a nationwide kōrero with Māori on future decision-making processes, for both by-Māori-for-Māori decisions and shared Māori/tauiwi decisions. “Moana went to 252 hui. He said ‘Have kete, will travel’ – and away he went. I went to about 50,” says Margaret, who doesn’t usually refer to “constitutional transformation”. Instead, “it’s about tomorrow: if you could make decisions for you and your whānau, what would that look like? For your hapū, for the iwi, for the nation – how do we get to make decisions in this country that benefit everybody?” In response, people “never talked about the models we ended up talking about, they talked about the values to uphold this country: mana, tapu, manaakitanga, whanaungatanga – we talk about them all the time,” says Margaret. “And as much as Moana and I said ‘but how are we going to do it?’, they would say ‘as long as you get those values right, as long as you include everybody, so long as you make sure everybody is safe and looked after, the rest of it will flow.’ […] That’s our responsibility [as Māori] to manaaki everyone so they can be proud of who they are.” The aim is to bring about Matike Mai recommendations by 2040 – “that was Moana’s instruction to us. So haere mai, 2040!”

(Reading recommendation: Mutu, M. (2019). “The Treaty Claims Settlement Process in New Zealand and Its Impact on Māori”. Land 8(10):152.)