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Kalega by Māori artist Rob Ruha

Rob Ruha is a Māori artist from New Zealand and provides our #songoftheday. He has been instrumental in inspiring a new generation of Māori music. He was featured on the Moana soundtrack.

New Zealand has no official independence day as it has had several stages of independence. Originally a colony, New Zealand became a dominion of the British Commonwealth in 1907. The 1931 Statute of Westminster stated that no act of British parliament would be forced on dominions. New Zealand adopted this statute in 1947. Full independence did not occur until 1986 when New Zealand's Parliament defined its authority.

While the country is independent, the struggle for autonomy for New Zealand's indigenous communities continues. On February 6th 1840, the Treaty of Waitangi was signed between the British and 540 Māori chiefs. It was written in English and Māori. Important variations existed in the two versions and much debate has been had over the spirit and intention of the treaty. When Māori chiefs would not pledge allegiance to Queen Victoria, war broke out. According to the law in place, by supporting the rebellion, Māori lost the right to own their land. In what was called a compromise in 1860, "for every block of land purchased from Māori, two-tenths would be conveyed to the original occupiers and one-tenth held for them as reserves. Part of the revenue from land sales would be used to create endowment for schools, churches and facilities for the ‘improvement’ of Māori" (McIntyre, 2012). Over 4 million acres were stolen from the Māori people and while some was eventually returned it often did not go to the original owner.

By the early 1910s nearly three-quarters of the North Island had passed out of Māori ownership. In the South Island, where most land had been acquired by the Crown before 1865, Māori retained less than 1% (Ministry for Culture and Heritage, 2016).

It wasn't until 1975 that a tribunal was formed to investigate Māori grievances. The tribunal was largely symbolic and began investigations in 1977. However, they were only allowed to investigate grievances occurring after 1975. It took another 10 years to make a change allowing investigations back to the signing of the treaty in 1840. Waitangi Day is commemorated on February 6th of each year.

New Zealand's other indigenous populations, the Ngāi Tahu and Waikato-Tainui peoples, did not receive acknowledgment of wrongdoing by colonization until the 1990s.


Photo credit: The Arts Foundation. (2003, January). Rob in Concert.



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