Another major Treaty settlements milestone passed today with Tuhoe deal announced. Among other things it includes $170million in redress and co-management of Te Urewera National Park. However it was a milestone with an important difference – Tuhoe have never actually signed the Treaty of Waitangi. And it raises the obvious question – will they now sign it ?
Historically the Crown has dealt with all Iwi as as if they had signed the Treaty, even if they had not. This was a specific policy decision taken early in New Zealand’s adminstrative history. Whilst it was taken as a good faith decision on the part of the Crown, where the Treaty was itself dishonoured by the Crown then non-signing Iwi were often the victms of injustice just as those who signed it were. Tuhoe was among them.
However times have changed and today the good faith of the Crown has worked on behalf of Tuhoe even though they are not Treaty signatories. Perhaps its time Tuhoe formally acknowledged that they too are citizens of New Zealand, and agree to “give absolutely to the Queen of England forever the complete government over their land”. (Professor Sir Hugh Kawharau’s translation of the Maori version of Article 1 of the Treaty).
In 1908 the Tuhoe chief Rua Kenana came down from his mountain stronghold to discuss matters of state with then Prime Minister Sir Joseph Ward. In response to Rua’s questions about the issue of sovereignty, Ward replied – there can only be one sun in the sky.
That was why the Treaty was signed in 1840. It remains true today.