I have never been to Waitangi on Waitangi Day. We visited the Treaty Grounds as a family when we went on holiday touring Northland a couple of times, but I have never been there on Waitangi Day itself. I have watched the coverage on TV most years and wondered what it would be like to be there. What would I get out of it as Pākehā and a relatively recent immigrant from England? What might I contribute? Is it a place for me or would I be intruding?
However, the more I have learned about Te Tiriti o Waitangi over the last few years the more I have understood its significance as an immigrant, as Tangata Tiriti. This year, I had decided to try and get there anyway, but now the Government seems to be doing so much to diminish the mana of Māori, the language, the tikanga and Te Tiriti, I was doubly determined. It’s a long way to go for a day. Waitangi Day fell on a Tuesday this year which meant I still needed to work on Monday and then I would have to drive back 5 hours on Tuesday evening to get to work on Wednesday. Then, in a work discussion, our boss said something that made me think. We were discussing the flexible work arrangements we have and how if most of our work is online, we can actually do it from anywhere there is an internet connection! She even observed that I had indeed joined online hui from my campervan when I was using it as accommodation when an overnight stay was needed for my more remote schools where there was no alternative.
A few days later, Kua taka te kapa! (The Penny dropped!). Why not take the van up to Waitangi, book Monday as a day’s leave and then stay there for the rest of the week and work from my van? I had no school visits booked, the online hui, I could do from the van, I could go! We have friends who live in Kerikeri with a big section I could park at so I could see them as well. A win-win situation!
So, off I went. It was a long (very windy) drive up from Kirikiriroa to Whangārei where I had coffee with another friend then onwards with more wind that blew my little van all over the place to Kerikeri. I arrived with sore shoulders and almost numb hands from gripping the steering wheel!
What ensued were three days of a mind-blowing experience. I had Sunday when it was a bit quieter to orient myself when I explored the food stalls and markets at Te Tii Marae and listened to some incredible kōrero in the Forum Tent. On Monday, the pōwhiri for the Government was a highlight but I also listened to some more powerful kōrero in the Forum Tent. Tuesday saw me being picked up in Kerikeri by my ‘daughter from another mother’, Ellie at 4am and we travelled in the dark to listen to the Dawn Service and watch the sun rise over Waitangi. Then just wandered and took in all the sights, smells, sounds and feels of Waitangi Day. We discussed what we had seen and heard. It was awesome to have someone to share it with.
There is so much to reflect on so I have broken it down into ‘bite-sized’ pieces. Partly to help me process everything, but also so anyone reading this doesn’t have a six-zillion-word opus to wade through!