Posted by: scribe9 | February 7, 2010

Waitangi Day 2010

Yesterday was Waitangi Day, the 170th anniversary of the founding of New Zealand as a British colony. We celebrated it in typical New Zealand fashion by going to the beach—three of them, in fact. We were going to stop at a fourth, but the longboard surfing tour was there, so it was zoolike. In the evening we were going to watch TV about it, but all we could find was a show in Maori, with no subtitles.

Waitangi Day commemorates the 1840 signing of a treaty between the British and some of the Maori tribes, and since it was written with different phrasing in its English and Maori versions, and signed by people with rather different concepts of sovereignty and relationships to the land, it’s been a matter of controversy ever since.

Waitangi Day wasn’t observed more than a time or two in New Zealand itself until after the country became independent, in 1947, and since then has had its ups and downs at the hands of Maori and of other New Zealanders. After all, some Maori and some Pakeha (European New Zealanders) think the treaty was a major fraud; some British New Zealanders thought that since New Zealand was predominantly British there was no reason to keep mentioning the treaty; some New Zealanders are neither British nor Maori; many are tired of polarization; and so on and on. And there was initial resistance to adding another paid holiday. So sometimes it’s been observed, sometimes it hasn’t, and frequently there are demonstrations.

In the morning, as we were headed out to the beach, we noticed fresh red graffiti on walls and windows of the neighborhood businesses, and wondered whether a protester had done the deed, but we haven’t heard.

In gearing up for the Big Day, the Auckland paper spent its last couple of front pages on flag-related stories. One was about the prevalence of flags that are all or partly the Union Jack—there are twenty-nine nations/Australian states/Canadian provinces and one of the United States. (Hint—think Captain Cook.) That issue also noted that even some Australians and New Zealanders have trouble telling their flags apart.

[Sorry these are different shapes–they’re the first clip-arts I found. Extra points if you remember which is which.]

 Another was a design-your-own-New-Zealand-flag article, with various backgrounds and New Zealand symbols (flip-flops [known here as jandals], anyone?). The Silver Fern flag is also popular, and not just for the national rugby team. There’s a Maori-designed flag that would require the payment of royalties to its three designers, which seems a bit awkward. Another awkward entry has four quarters, with the Union Jack in one, the Silver Fern in another, and I forget what else in the other two. As usual in these matters, some people are pushing hard, others are saying, “Well, sometime soon,” and others are pushing back. I’m not holding my breath.

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