Waitangi Day

By: Louk Vreeswijk

Feb 01 2015

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Category: New Zealand, Oceania

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On the 6th of February 1840 representatives of the British Crown and some 500 Maori Chiefs signed the Treaty of Waitangi (after the place where it was done), which guaranteed the Maoris right to their land and gave them the rights of British subjects. This sounds nice and generous, but the main thing was of course that through this Treaty the old Maori Aotearoa officially became New Zealand and part of the British Empire. One can also say: on that day the Maoris officially lost their country and their independence.

It’s not surprising then that Waitangi Day, the national holiday on the 6th of February when the signing of the founding document of New Zealand is celebrated, or maybe we’d better call it commemorated, still is a day of mixed feelings between the descendants of the white colonizers and the Maori population. It’s a day when all parties try their best to show their good and friendly intentions in accepting each others differing cultural backgrounds and identities, while together being one nation.

During the yearly celebrations, like on the photo in Okains Bay, one can see the Maori community giving the local white dignitaries that represent the government and the Crown a traditional welcome to their communal ground and meeting house – the Marae.

DSC00064 Waitangi day Okains Bay 2013 blogcolumn

There are songs and speeches from both sides, followed by the traditional Maori greeting of rubbing foreheads and noses with the guests. It’s a touching scene indeed, hiding at least for a moment the different feelings the memory of Waitangi Day may evoke on both sides.

Photos of the week: Waitangi Day, Okains Bay, New Zealand 2013

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