Land Wars Day risks locking in grievance focus

In a healthy relationship you celebrate your successes – you don’t memorialize your conflicts. That is why a national day to commemorate lives lost in the land wars in New Zealand is not a good idea. There is a real risk that it will not build unity (kotahitanga). Rather it may simply reserve a space in our national calendar around which grievance will coalesce and contention will fester. On both sides.

In a healthy relationship you do your best to face your failures and conflicts. Difficult conversations are had. Apologies are offered. Actions are taken to put things right. Forgiveness is offered. Reconciliation is achieved and whilst lessons are learned, both parties put things behind them and move forward to better things.

This is the dynamic of a healthy relationship. In New Zealand we are building a strong relationship between Maori and Pakeha based on this dynamic. It is called the Treaty settlements process. The process is not perfect and has still to be completed. However it is a journey that has been undertaken in good faith and engaged in honourably by both sides. A Land Wars Day threatens to divert that journey by freezing our focus on conflicts that need to be put behind us.

Yes we need to know our history and yes our children need to be taught about our past conflicts. However those lessons are for the history books and the classroom. They are not for a national day of commemoration. Besides, we already have such a day. It marks those times when we stood together against a common enemy. The times when we united to fight facism and injustice. That is something worth remembering together. Our battles against each other are not. They are something we need to deal with, put right, and put behind us.

It was Otorohanga College students whose petition seeking a Land Wars Day is now being considered by the Maori Affairs Select Committee (make a submission here). Their efforts should be applauded. Their interest in our history and engagement in our political process is absolutely commendable. However to build kotahitanga in New Zealand, a more fruitful focus might be how to make Waitangi Day more truly the celebration that it should be. That is when we started our journey together. It is worth remembering.

Ewen McQueen
April 2016

This entry was posted in Cultural Renewal, Spiritual Renewal, Treaty of Waitangi and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Land Wars Day risks locking in grievance focus

  1. mobfiz says:

    “Yes we need to know our history and yes our children need to be taught about our past conflicts. However those lessons are for the history books and the classroom…” Unfortunately though, that history – particularly inter-tribal warfare after the introduction of the musket – is still raw, and deep animosities still remain. Hence a lack of real unity and leadership amongst Maori. However, our nation’s history is incredible, and we are surrounded by areas of conflict and engagement that very few people are aware of. The call for a Land Wars Day is politically inspired and obviously misguided, and seeks to reinforce our history as one of pakeha oppression.


    • Panthers222 says:

      Well it sought of was oppression. Maori were once thought of as “superior savages” & Maori women were once thought as “inferior”. Maori were left impoverished yet still are mostly on the bottom of the NZ economic ladder today. Maori were restricted from speaking their native language. racist laws toward Maori are now being removed.The Treaty of Waitangi was ignored until the 1970’s by the NZ Government/Courts.

      The median income gap between between Pakeha & Maori,Asian,Pasifika is wide.

      Median life expectancy for Maori is still lower than that for Pakeha.

      Over 50% of both the NZ male & female prison populations are Maori. The United Nations called the NZ justice system institutionally racist towards Maori.


  2. In a healthy relationship you celebrate your successes – you don’t memorialize your conflicts. This is an absurd proposition from a perspective who’s never had live to through colonial occupation. Your beliefs, your culture, your way of living is valued. You can’t say the same has always been the case for Māori. In fact, history would tell you it’s been the opposite. So it’s a bit rich to say let’s forget our divisions and let’s all play in the sandpit whilst you pay no attention to the plight of your own indigenous people that gets dominated in peace and quiet. It’s a bit rich.


    • Ewen McQueen says:

      Hi maoriphilospher

      You will see if you read the blog plus many other blogs on this site that I am not saying we should ignore our history at all. I am saying we should deal with it as we are doing in the Treaty Settlement process – and then move on to better things.



      • maoriphilosopher says:

        If you think the Treaty Settlement process is an accurate measure of compensation for authentic and whole Māori perspectives of New Zealand history you are sorely mistaken. The Crown have apologised to Maungahaururu Tangitu for it’s role at Omarunui. Ngāti Pārau members fought alongisde the Crown to defend their land the peace of the settlement. It’s so important to commemorate our history outside of the Treaty Settlement process in a civic dialogue. To ignore that would be to give rise to the creation of new breaches. Moving on to better things is perhaps, in my opinion, a bit obtuse and perhaps not an unorthodox inverted non-Māori perspective.


  3. The Editor says:

    You’re a great writer Ewen! I have submitted a reply piece to yours to stuff today. No hate at all just a different persepctive. I respect your work as a writer! Following


  4. maoriphilosopher says:

    I want Kotahitanga as much as you do. But to proclaim that the Treaty Settlement process will authentically uphold the Māori perspectives of New Zealand history is a treacherous oversimplification. We need Māori perspectives everywhere. Especially in our civic dialogue. Because those perspectives are what makes our nation so great – a society that values inclusiveness and diversity. We are a great nation because we respect our differences, not because we fear them.


  5. No disrespect but posts like yours are dangerous because they only serve to reinforce the same stereotypes that people currently understand in our society. There is no new knowledge in what you’re saying. Please consider carefully approaching these kinds of topics in future without the requisite knowledge required to substantiate your blogs. For a non-Māori this blog shows a lack foresight. Cheers.


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