Instead of seeing Māori ways as an either/or with existing thinking about the world and its governance, Dame Anne Salmond argues it’s time to bring them together for new institutional forms of order for Aotearoa-New Zealand. This year she wrote a five part essay on these issues, combined here in one place:
Part One: Beyond the Binary
For more than 200 years, Māori ways of framing the world and explaining how it works have been regarded as implausible – classified as ‘myths,’ ‘legends,’ ‘superstition’ or ‘religion.’
This has led to difficulties of translation, with terms such as tohunga being translated as ‘priest’ (instead of ‘expert’); atua as ‘god’ (rather than ‘powerful ancestor’ or ‘ancestral force’);’ and tapu as ‘sacred’ (instead of ‘ancestral power’). Whakapapa itself has been translated as ‘genealogy,’ although it is quite different from that idea in English.
According to the whakapapa taught in the whare wānanga (schools of ancestral learning), a first burst of energy in the cosmos generated thought, memory and desire; followed by knowledge; and aeons of nothingness and darkness. When the winds of life and growth blew through the world, earth and sky emerged, then wind, sea and rivers, plants, animals and people.
In the spiral of space-time, this process is ongoing, and the whakapapa of life keeps on unfurling. In this framing, the world is an all-encompassing set of kin networks, based on ongoing reciprocal exchanges among different life forms. This is not unlike ideas of complex networks and systems in contemporary science.
When the first Europeans stepped ashore in Aotearoa, they brought their own mythic framings with them.
One of these was Cartesian dualism, in which the thinking subject guaranteed its own existence. In this cosmic model, subject was radically divided from object, mind from matter (res cogitans vs res extensa), Culture from Nature, and people from the wider world, and eachother.
In this binary logic, the world was divided into mutually exclusive units – life forms into species and genera through Linnaean taxonomy; people into different categories through censuses and ‘nation states’; human inquiry into different disciplines; and space and time into standardised measures, through instrumentation, the grids of latitude and longitude, surveying, cartography and the like.
Many of these innovations were happening in Europe in the mid-18th century as the first Europeans arrived in New Zealand, shaping their approaches to landscapes, plants, animals and people in Aotearoa – the origins of our gridded landscapes and bureaucratic silos, for instance.
In another, closely related if more ancient Western idea, the ‘Great Chain of Being,’ the world was framed as a cosmic hierarchy, with God at the top, followed by archangels and angels, a divine monarch, the ‘civilised’ ranks of the aristocracy, and commoners, with men over women, descending to ‘barbarians’ and ‘savages’, sentient and non-sentient animals, insects, plants, animals and rocks. All forms of life lower down the Chain were expected to offer up obedience and tribute to those higher up.
This was the origin of the ‘chain of command,’ echoed today in corporates and many other institutions; ‘sovereignty’ (a supreme power derived from a divine monarch); and ranked social systems in which people should know ‘their place’ – sexism, racism, colonisation, the First, Second and Third Worlds, the ‘glass ceiling’, the 1 percent over the 99 percent.
In this kind of framing, the earth with all its life forms and living systems is at the bottom of the Great Chain of Being, defined as ‘resource’ to be managed for human uses (‘resource management’), offering up ‘ecosystem services’ and so on.
Again, this cosmic framing has mythic origins, for instance the creation story in Genesis, in which God gives Adam ‘dominion’ over the ‘fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth.’
It is also non-adaptive. The idea that the world was created for human uses is putting human survival at risk, fuelling extractive approaches and climate change, dying rivers, acidifying seas and collapsing ecosystems, in Aotearoa New Zealand as elsewhere.
Given these challenges, many scientists are now turning to ideas of complex networks and systems to understand how the world works. In Aotearoa, many are experimenting with bringing together mātauranga Māori with cutting edge science, seeking to free their thinking from disciplinary silos by focusing on relations among and between different living systems and life forms.
Similar efforts are happening in governance, for example. The ‘Wellbeing Budget’ is aimed at achieving better outcomes for people and land in Aotearoa New Zealand, by working across departmental silos.
The review of the Resource Management Act marks a shift away from the idea of the world as ‘resource’ to be managed for human uses, and towards an idea of te taiao, living systems that include land, waterways, the sea, plants, animals and people.
Instead of a fundamental split between people and ‘the environment’ based on Cartesian dualism, and top-down extractive approaches based on the old Great Chain of Being, the aim is to understand, work within and regenerate healthy socio-ecosystems.
Is this also happening in relations between Māori and non- Māori? Over 200 years, Māori have been subjected to gridded systems that cut through whakapapa – dividing up the land into bounded blocks, bought and sold as commodities on the market; and people into lists of owners and tribal groups on a corporate model.
In the process, they’ve had to grapple with ideas of ‘property’, ‘ownership’, and ‘biculturalism’ based on ‘either/or’ Cartesian logic (Māori vs. non-Māori as two separate silos), even as whakapapa have become ever more complex, wide-ranging and inclusive.
In New Zealand, it’s vital to recognise the resilience of ancient Western myth models such as Cartesian dualism and the Great Chain of Being in contemporary life, and the dangers associated with these old habits of mind.
Current debates that seek to revive animosities between ‘iwi’ vs ‘Kiwi,’ for example, are classic Cartesian devices – anachronistic, divisive colonial throwbacks.
This might also be true of struggles over the ‘ownership’ of ‘resources,’ and radical divisions between Māori vs. non-Māori that cut across whakapapa and whanaungatanga, rather than generating relations based on equality and balanced exchange.
What would a whakapapa-based approach to Te Tiriti look like, in a country where an increasing number of citizens have whakapapa that include Māori, Pākehā, Pasifika and many other non-Māori forebears and whānaunga?
Rather than Māori vs non-Māori, could ancestral ideas of lines of descent as strands that remain distinct, while being woven together to create a fine cloak, a meeting-house, a family or a nation, provoke new ways of imagining relations within and among individuals and groups across Aotearoa?
Is there an opportunity to rethink identity in a whakapapa framing that includes other living systems and life forms – as in the Whanganui River and Urewera Acts, for example?
Would it be possible to bring together ideas of whakapapa and complex systems in designing new institutional forms of order in Aotearoa New Zealand, as well as relations between people and the wider world?
Part Two: Te Tiriti
In looking for answers to these questions, we might to turn to Te Tiriti itself, the Treaty of Waitangi. Although in contemporary debates, the English draft of the Treaty is much cited, Te Tiriti in Māori is the authoritative document, since this is the text that was debated and signed by almost all parties in 1840.
At that time tikanga (Māori ways of thinking and doing things) were dominant, although Māori people were struggling to deal with increasing numbers of arrivals from Europe and elsewhere, in a world that was rapidly changing.
Some of the rangatira who signed Te Tiriti were more knowledgeable about Europeans than others, having dealt with missionaries and other settlers at close quarters for decades. While some had travelled to New South Wales, England and elsewhere, where they met Governors (kāwana) and monarchs, returning to report on their adventures, others had much less contact with the incoming arrivals.
Similarly, some of the European participants in the Treaty debates were more familiar with Māori than others, having lived among them for decades, while others were novices, including the proposed new Governor, William Hobson.
For all of these reasons, Te Tiriti has to be regarded as an experimental document, based on partial understandings on all sides. In many ways, it still is, despite the huge effort invested in Treaty research, debate and formal proceedings over the past 40 years.
In contemporary times, in relations between Māori and other New Zealanders, Te Tiriti is increasingly prominent in legislation, legal decisions and public discussions.
When Te Tiriti was signed, tikanga largely framed the proceedings. Since then, its interpretation has increasingly become the province of lawyers and politicians, and modernist framings have become dominant, focusing on rights, property and money, rather than relations among people, the land and the ocean.
Likewise, although Te Tiriti is expressed in the language of chiefly gift exchange, and was negotiated as an alliance between Queen Victoria and the rangatira of various hapū, it has been legally reframed as a binary ‘partnership’ on a corporate model between Maori and the Crown.
Despite these neo-colonial, neo-liberal rewritings, Te Tiriti still stands. It is salutary to return to the Māori text, and to hear what it says.
As is now widely agreed, in the first Ture (law) of Te Tiriti, when the rangatira gave absolutely (tuku rawa atu) all the Kāwanatanga of their lands (te Kāwanatanga katoa o ou rātou whenua) to the Queen, this did not amount to a cession of sovereignty.
All the same, this promise was not trivial, extending as it did all the powers of a Governor (Kāwana) over their ancestral lands. Some of the rangatira who participated in the debates and their predecessors had stayed with Governors in Port Jackson and Norfolk Island, and were aware of the considerable powers delegated to the Queen’s representatives.
In Ture two of Te Tiriti, when the Queen ratified and agreed to ‘te tino rangatiratanga o o ratou wenua o ratou kainga me o ratou taonga katoa’, she promised to uphold the absolute authority of the rangatira and Māori people generally over their lands, dwelling places and taonga.
From the point of view of binary logic, this looks like a paradox.
Under tikanga, however, where whakapapa relationships with waterways, mountains, forests and harbours entangled, different kin could activate different kinds of use rights, and different kinds of mana could co-exist in the land.
For insight into how Ture 1 and 2 powers – Kāwanatanga and rangatiratanga, the Governor and the Rangatira – were intended to engage with each other, we can turn to the third Ture of Te Tiriti.
Here, in exchange for their agreement to Kāwanatanga, the Queen promised to look after ‘nga tangata maori katoa o Nu Tirani’ (all of the everyday persons (pl.) of New Zealand), and to give to them ‘nga tikanga katoa rite tahi ki ana mea ki nga tangata o Ingarani’ – all the tikanga exactly equal to those of her subjects, the people of England.
According to the Williams dictionary, in 1840 ‘maori’ meant ‘normal, usual, ordinary;’ and ‘nga (pl.) tangata maori o Nu Tirani’ described the normal, usual inhabitants of New Zealand as individuals. The use of ‘Maori’ as a noun to describe an ethnic group came later.
Likewise in the Williams Māori dictionary, ‘rite’ is translated as ‘equivalent, balanced, alike’ – not ‘identical’:
1. a. Like. I rite ahau ki ia manu, ki ia manu; manu iti, manu rahi.
2. Alike. Kia rite koutou te haere.
3. Corresponding in position, number, etc. Ka pakarua iho te wahi i rite ake ai tona iringa ake. Ko nga rangatira i rite tonu: e toru nga matua, tokotoru hoki nga rangatira.
4. Balanced by an equivalent, paid for. Kua rite noa ake i a au te kakahu.
5. Performed, completed, fulfilled. Rite tonu etahi o nga kupu i a ia.
6. Agreed to. Heoi ka rite enei korero i a ratou katoa.
This is where the ‘Hobson’s Pledge’ denial of plurality is mistaken
The third Ture (the ‘Queen’s Promise’ is a pledge of equality (not identity) and balance between the tikanga of the everyday inhabitants of New Zealand and the Queens’ subjects, the people of England (ie the settlers) as individuals, and of equal return in the exchanges between the rangatira and the Queen.
This is no doubt why, in subsequent years, rangatira kept travelling to England to remind the royal family of the promises made by Queen Victoria to their ancestors.
In their report on ‘Te Paparahi o te Raki’ claim, the Waitangi Tribunal concluded that under Te Tiriti, the details of these relationships were intended to be worked out over time, especially as the whakapapa between those already in the country and the newcomers intertwined.
In practice, however, European understandings prevailed. Given Cartesian either/or logic and the Great Chain of Being, it was assumed that there could be only one sovereign over a country, and only one owner (or group of owners) with exclusive rights over a block of land. Hence the New Zealand Wars, the confiscations and the Native Land Court to enforce this kind of reasoning.
Likewise, since the Treaty of Waitangi Act was passed in 1975, Te Tiriti has been interpreted as establishing something akin to a fiduciary ‘partnership’ between two parties (‘Maori’ and ‘the Crown’) – a reading based on Cartesian logic and a market economy, rather than tikanga Māori.
This is perhaps why Treaty settlements have focused so much on money and property, rather than on achieving equal, balanced relationships among Māori and other New Zealanders and their tikanga, and with land and sea. Likewise, it is often assumed that Māori interests can best be served by replicating corporate structures or establishing new, parallel bureaucracies, despite their colonial origins.
The difficulty here is that corporates and bureaucracies are typically, top-down structures with power and wealth focused at the top, that define land, sea and people as ‘resources’ in a market economy – very different from the reciprocity and chiefly generosity associated with rangatiratanga, and its kin-based relations with land and sea.
Exceptions include Te Urewera and Te Awa Tupua Acts, in which land and waterways are recognised as powerful ancestral beings, linked with kin groups by whakapapa. The recent Whakatōhea Foreshore and Seabed decision may be another case in point, with its ‘pou tara-ā-whare’ idea of a house sheltering different kin groups.
Rather than lawyers and politicians dominating the discussions about relations between Māori and other citizens, maybe debates about Te Tiriti should be more like discussions on a marae, in which a range of voices (both tangata whenua and manuhiri) can be heard.
As is often said, the Treaty still speaks. As increasing numbers of New Zealanders learn te reo, perhaps we will no longer need to rely on neo-colonial frames of reference, but listen to the original language of Te Tiriti instead.
At that point, we might grasp the idea of whakapapa as an all-embracing network in which all life is included, which might help us rise above divisive quarrels over ownership and control based on the Great Chain of Being, in which people rule over Nature.
It might also transcend the Cartesian vision of a fractured world in which everything is commodified (even fish & fresh water), and ‘Kiwi’ are radically split from ‘Iwi,’ and people from ‘the environment’ and each another.
Such alienated, extractive habits of mind have wreaked havoc on life forms, living systems and communities across the planet. Using them to try and heal the harms of colonialism could be a final defeat.
Experimenting with different tikanga, on the other hand, as promised in the last Ture of Te Tiriti, might open up a new kind of future for our children and grandchildren. Why not try, when the alternatives seem so bleak?
Part three: Aotearoa Histories
Another place to look might be in the stories we tell about the past.
He tangata kē koutou, he tangata kē mātou,
I roto i tēnei whare, tātou tātou e.
A song that’s often sung on marae shows how difference and unity play out in te reo. ‘You people are different (from us),’ it says, ‘We are different (from you). Inside this house, we are one’ (its us, its us).
The song plays on the relational pronouns in Māori, where ‘koutou’ means ‘you, excluding us,’ ‘mātou’ means ‘us, excluding you’; and ‘tātou’ means ‘us, including you.’ Kē simply means ‘different.’ In te reo, difference is relationally defined. In this song, groups who were separate and distinct before they met in the pōwhiri come together.
In the same way, ‘Hobson’s Pledge’ – ‘He iwi tahi tātou’ / ‘We are one people’ – is a phrase that signals unity in difference. Just as strands in a cloak, or ancestral carvings in a meeting-house remain distinct after they are brought together, so do different descent lines and groups of people.
If William Hobson, the Governor-elect, actually spoke these words after the signing of Te Tiriti, it would have been understood as a statement of alliance between the rangatira and the Queen, not assimilation. Again, this is where the ‘Hobson’s Pledge’ denial of plurality is mistaken.
In the same way, the teaching of Aotearoa New Zealand’s histories in schools should be able to trace distinct strands in our country’s past – from the origins of the cosmos to the emergence of land and sea, plants and animals, and much later, the arrival of different groups of people – spiralling into the present, and the future.
Whakapapa, the all-embracing network of life, allows for difference in unity, and unity in difference. When earth and sky first emerged, for instance, according to the Te Arawa expert Te Rangikāheke, they were one: ‘Kotahi anō te tupuna o te tangata māori, ko Rangi rāua ko Papa-tūānuku’ (There is just one ancestor of ordinary people, Rangi (Sky Father) and Papa-tūānuku (Earth Mother).
It was not until their children forced them apart, letting light into the world, that earth and sky, male and female became distinct, although their relationship remains intimate and generative.
After the islands of Aotearoa emerged from the ocean, plants and animals inhabited them for aeons before the first human beings came ashore. Successive waves of migrants are traced in the whakapapa, including the arrival of European ancestors and others, along with their tragedies and triumphs.
A whakapapa vision of the past is expansive, with its focus on homelands and migrations, and human beings as just one strand in the web of life. It is dynamic, focusing on relationships through time; and inclusive, with different strands of whakapapa woven together in individuals, families and communities.
This kind of history is very different from the binary ‘Iwi vs. Kiwi’ approach, with its stark polarities, static views of the past, and strategic amnesia. As many commentators have noted, the draft curriculum for Aotearoa New Zealand histories in schools is patchy, with huge holes in its collective memory.
Compared with whakapapa, the draft curriculum is anthropocentric, ignoring the aeons of pre-human history in these islands, with their unique communities of animals and plants. It is shallow, erasing the histories of different Māori kin groups through time, with their innovations, struggles and alliances. It is ethnocentric, blocking out the deep histories of migrants from Europe, the Pacific, Asia and elsewhere. It is also sexist, disregarding the feats of women from Papatuānuku onwards.
An emphasis on judgement and ‘interpretation’ rather than investigation and understanding lies at the heart of its many erasures. In my view, the drafters need to go back to first principles if they are to do justice to the rich histories inherited by our children and grandchildren.
Just as fine cloaks are woven, and meeting-houses are carved and decorated by tohunga, so experts from the different wānanga, whether Māori, Pasifika, European or from other ancestral legacies, each with their own rigorous standards, should be crafting our nation’s stories, cross-checking each other for accuracy and balance.
While it may be fair to complain about the absence of the Musket Wars from the draft curriculum, for instance, the wars in America and Canada, the Highland Clearances and the Napoleonic Wars are equally absent, with all their brutality and their direct links with musket fighting and the New Zealand Wars.
The failure to discuss Pasifika and Asian histories in Aotearoa is equally incomprehensible, let alone the histories of women. Tātou, tātou, difference in unity, unity in difference. This approach applies to histories as well as to people.
All of our children need to see themselves in our nation’s stories, and all of their ancestors, warts and all. The past is not just one foreign country, but many, and exploring them is one of life’s great adventures – heart-breaking and hilarious, cautionary and inspiring, a voyage around different worlds.
Part four: Te Taiao & climate change
One last place to look for answers to the questions asked earlier might be in our relationships with land, forests, waterways and the ocean. Te taiao, the living world, includes all strands in the web of life – rivers, mountains, the sea, plants, animals and people.
This whakapapa vision fundamentally differs from modernity’s top-down, fragmented, extractive view of the living world, with its radical division between ‘people’ vs ‘the environment;’ and its ‘cost-benefit’ analyses that exclude impacts on communities and the living world as ‘externalities.’
Here, a toxic combination of Cartesian dualism and the Great Chain of Being helps to drive the entangled crises of climate change, biodiversity losses, degradation of waterways and the ocean and fractured, dysfunctional societies.
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It also threatens our best efforts to tackle these existential challenges. Strategies that assume that the world was created for human uses, and that people can command nature to do their bidding are based on the same life-threatening logic, and are unlikely to be effective.
A recent virtual gathering of Nobel prize-winners and leading global thinkers (including the Dalai Lama) came to similar conclusions. Their language was vivid, and bleak.
According to James Lovelock of ‘Gaia’ fame, for instance, climate change is a biological problem:
“Burning fossil fuels is releasing the energy of ancient photosynthesis in a geological instant; and in addition we have destroyed so much terrestrial nature that there is as much carbon from destroyed nature in the atmosphere as survives in current ecosystems.
“A good ending to climate change will require bringing much of that back through ecosystem restoration. For a satisfactory outcome, we need to manage ourselves.”
According to Sandra Diaz, an Argentinian ecologist, “We have incontestable evidence that the living fabric of the earth is being unravelled fast. The only reason this is happening is the present dominant model of appropriating nature.
Runaway climate change, massive biodiversity loss and intolerable social and environmental inequality among people are simply the three most serious symptoms of the same root problem. They must be tackled together.”
Time and again, the speakers stressed the interconnected nature of these crises, and an urgent need to change patterns of thinking based on the separation of people from nature, the fragmentation of living systems, and the earth as created for human purposes.
Likewise, a recent collaboration between the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and an Intergovernmental panel on Biodiversity insists that the biodiversity crisis and climate change must be tackled together.
They argue strongly against fractured approaches that fail to consider these links, describing reforestation efforts in Brazil using pine and eucalypt monocultures for carbon sequestration as “an impending ecological disaster, because they destroy the native ecosystem and the livelihoods of local communities.”
Our Climate Change Commission has fallen into precisely this trap with its unrelenting focus on carbon, for instance in recommending the expansion of carbon farming with pine trees in New Zealand. One can’t hope to solve these interconnected challenges by using the same splintered logic that caused them in the first place.
The climate commission and the Government must listen to the world’s best scientists and thinkers, and turn to nature-based strategies to tackle climate change and biodiversity losses – especially nature-based forestry, regenerative agriculture, horticulture, tourism and urban ways of living, and the restoration of mangroves and wetlands.
Aotearoa New Zealand has a brilliant opportunity to do this by bringing together whakapapa framings with the ‘web of life’ and cutting edge science to devise world-leading solutions to these existential crises. Let’s seize it, before it’s too late.
Part five: He Puapua: Binary Blues
Ironically, in seeking to reshape the future, the government and its advisors have set aside the chance to experiment with whakapapa and ideas of complex systems, turning instead to old colonial habits of mind, including Cartesian dualism with its silo thinking.
As I argued in Part Two of this series, since the Treaty of Waitangi Act was passed in 1975, Te Tiriti has been interpreted as establishing something akin to a fiduciary ‘partnership’ between two parties (‘Maori’ and ‘the Crown’) – a reading based on binary logic and a market economy, rather than tikanga Māori.
No one should be surprised by this, since this interpretation was arrived at by lawyers, whose training is immersed in reasoning and precedents from Europe. Again, not surprisingly, He Puapua, a think piece about the future of this ‘partnership,’ follows a similar logic.
This is plain from its vision statement, which focuses on the relationship between ‘Māori’ and ‘the Crown:’ “Māori and the Crown [will] enjoy a harmonious and constructive relationship and work together to restore and uphold the well-being of ngā tāngata, Papa-tuānuku and the natural environment.”
Like the idea of a ‘fiduciary partnership,’ this framing is based on an assumption that the categories ‘Māori’ and ‘the Crown’ are separate, and distinct from each other. Given the composition of the current Parliament, however, which includes Māori as well as non-Māori politicians in Cabinet and across all major political parties, this is clearly not the case.
He Puapua also assumes that ‘Māori’ will be represented by their own governance structures, and ipso facto, that ‘Māori’ and ‘non-Māori’ (who are remarkably absent from the document) are distinct and separate categories of person.
Given the entanglement of whakapapa over the past 200 years or so, however, and the composition of the contemporary population of Aotearoa New Zealand, this is also clearly not the case.
Just as ‘the Crown’ represents all New Zealanders, so whakapapa includes all tīpuna, not just those who happen to be Māori, and whanaungatanga includes all family members. The relational networks of whakapapa and whānaungatanga are not ethnically exclusive, nor restricted by essentialist ideas of ‘race’.
By way of contrast, a binary framing that proposes that ‘Māori and the Crown [will] enjoy a harmonious and constructive relationship’ has the perverse effect of excluding all ‘non-Māori’ from the relationship, leaving it for ‘the Crown’ to speak on their behalf.
Debates over He Puapua are bound to be divisive, if only because of these exclusions, which include most of the population of Aotearoa New Zealand. The chances of the vast majority of New Zealanders agreeing to being set aside in this way are negligible, and the prospects of harmony arising from these discussions are slight.
At the same time, many critics of He Puapua fall into the same trap as its authors, offering binary analyses and accounts of whakapapa that draw on Western ideas of ‘race’ and ‘ethnicity’.
Whakapapa has nothing to do with ‘race’. Here, a person is constituted by the sum and quality of their relationships, with other life forms as well as with other people, including tīpuna and whanaunga from different backgrounds and places.
This is very different from the sharp-edged silos generated by binary logic, based on Yes/No choices – eg. Iwi/Kiwi, Māori/the Crown, Māori/non-Māori, which cut across the relational networks of whakapapa and whanaungatanga.
Ironically, such thinking is deployed by He Puapua and its critics alike. It readily translates into denials of shared humanity, in racism for example, in ‘culture wars,’ or inter-ethnic antagonisms that flare into violence and hatred, as we have seen in many countries around the world.
This has happened, and still happens in Aotearoa New Zealand, during the New Zealand Wars, for instance, and the hurts and harms caused by everyday racist behaviour.
The promise of Te Tiriti, couched as it was in the language of chiefly gift exchange, was to enhance the mana of all the parties, and to bring people and their tikanga together as equals, as Ture 3 clearly states – a future based on reciprocity and mutual respect.
With He Puapua and its critics, however, the Government has lost sight of this promise – as also happened after Te Tiriti was signed, leading to racial antagonism, violent conflict, and bitter and lasting anger. By focusing debates around Te Tiriti on this document, the Government has gone down a rabbit hole, with no ready exit in sight. History should teach us not to keep on making the same mistakes.