Should we continue to celebrate Waitangi Day?
You might look at this and think, “Yeah, of course we should… it’s a long-weekend, an extra day off school, an extra day of summer!” Maybe that is the issue. We don’t celebrate Waitangi Day as a momentous holiday for our country. We don’t look at it with honour. We don’t join together to remember the day. We don’t get up at 6am for a Dawn Parade service. We simply take the day off and enjoy ourselves. So does that mean we should get rid of it altogether?
As Waitangi Day falls upon the day of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi – between the Maori and the British – I think we should look first at how the Maori people are spending Waitangi Day. It seems they still honour this day with gatherings and traditions. Local Kiwi woman Daphne Trainor says that for her, “Waitangi Day kind of brings everyone together, Maori and non-Maori, and we get to share our [Maori] culture.” She joins with her family for a hangi at their Marae and they take the opportunity to celebrate their Maori culture. Local Maori man Paul Sami says simply “I like to do family time on Waitangi Day. I think it’s an important day to Maori.” Traditions like these are what make our country unique. Our stress-free vibe, but also our strong values of family and nationality.
While the Treaty of Waitangi was not and is not a perfect document, it was what led us to where we are today. Therefore, we should continue to celebrate it and further make the effort to honour it. I would argue that not only do we not have the right to take this celebration day away from the people of New Zealand, but that we as a nation should be endeavouring to join in and build on these traditions.
We don’t have to commit to a three-day long commiseration weekend or another 6am start, we can find something that unites us together in a different way. Whether this be a formal tradition or a simple family gathering, what is important is the effort to remember how fortunate we are to be with our families and living in union as a nation today. I’m not saying there is not progress to be made for New Zealand, but there is no point in waiting until we are perfect to take the opportunity to join together and be thankful for what we have now.
However, these sort of changes are not immediate. Traditions don’t for overnight. Plus, the Waitangi Tribunal continues to deal with disputes from Iwi over land, leaving many Maori people to feel they do not want to celebrate this day just yet. At least for today, we can reflect on the good intentions of the Māori people who signed the Treaty of Waitangi and honour our neighbouring brothers and sisters of New Zealand, by shining a light on the injustice of their people having a continued fight to uphold the Treaty.
Critical Thinking Challenges:
- Why is it important that youth, not just adults, celebrate Waitangi Day?
- What is the difference between celebrating a normal public holiday and celebrating Waitangi Day? What should it be?
- Do you believe it is still important Waitangi Day is celebrated when the Treaty of Waitangi was signed so long ago – nearly 200 years!?
- Ask a parent how they celebrated Waitangi Day, this Waitangi Day and on Waitangi day when they were younger?
- If you can, ask someone how they have been affected personally by the Treaty of Waitangi and the ongoing land claims. How do they feel about Waitangi Day now? If you can’t, imagine you were in their shoes and write a descriptive paragraph about how you would feel.
- Research how Waitangi Day came to be and why it is still celebrated today. Look at what our Prime Minister/Politicians have to say, compared to what ordinary citizens have to say. Is there a difference between the reasons?