Tuia 250 facilitates critical discussion of NZ history

By Te Kuru o te Marama Dewes

The three European ships of the Tuia 250 Flotilla join the three waka haurua in Tūranganui a Kiwa. While those on-board are united in the pursuit of sailing, not everyone is behind the commemorations. 

In the early hours of the morning, fires on the shore were lit to acknowledge Ahi Kā, the long-standing presence of Tūranga iwi who inhabited the land long before the first encounters.

In 1769, at the arrival of the Endeavour to Tūranganui a Kiwa, Ngāti Oneone chief Te Maro was shot dead on the beach. The following day, up to eight Rongowhakaata were also shot, with more than half of them dying from their wounds.

Now, as the 250th Commemoration takes place in Tūranganui a Kiwa, the re-enactment of the arrival of the Endeavour has been a topic of national debate. 

Tangata whenua, Huia Pihema from Te Aitanga-a-Mahaki says, “In 250 years, not one person from England came to apologise but this week one did arrive, with strength and bravery to come among us. So that's what Te Kura o Tūranga said three months ago, if a representative from England comes to apologise, we will respect the event with the appropriate Māori customs and protocols of our elders."

In the last week, an Expression of Regret was delivered by British High Commissioner Laura Clarke to the iwi of Tūranga for the deaths of those Māori at the hands of the Endeavour crew.

“Te Kura o Tūranga were there hearing physically, spiritually and verbally the apology, and some disregard her action saying it's not an apology but it's a start. So to move forward, for the generations to follow, how must we do so? If we block the door, how we can it then be re-opened again?”, says Pihema.

Dame Jenny Shipley says that, "And I think the Treaty challenges us to say we can't change that but we're committed, the commitment to work together that that Treaty demands of us, also is in the spirit of Tuia."

Co-chair for Tuia 250, Hoturoa Barclay-Kerr says that, "The waka have arrived, so now it's time to deliberate the discource".

Co-chair for Tuia 250 Dame Jenny Shipley acknowledges that, "When I was much younger we were dealing with protestors who had to argue and put the case to honour the Treaty, we're a long way ahead of where we were then."

However, while the formal proceedings took place one side of the Tūranganui a Kiwa river, on the other side, protestors gathered to highlight the impact that colonisation continues to have on Māori.

Heeni Tuhura says, “I'm here representing our meth whānau, our suicide whānau, the homeless, our tamariki that have been ripped away from their whānau this is all part and parcel of the result of colonisation and it's time for us now to make a stand.”

With history soon to be compulsory in schools, Tuia250 brings timely debate.

Minister of Māori Development Nanaia Mahuta says, “The history of Aotearoa (New Zealand) needs to be included in the curriculum of all schools, mainstream and Māori.”

Minister for Crown-Māori Relations and Minister in charge of Tuia Encounters 250, Kelvin Davis says, “According to the narratives of this area, this was where Te Maro had his gardens, so it's only right that we speak about that, and that the children of the schools here learn about those aspects of their ancestors.”

Hoturoa Barclay-Kerr adds that “It's a challenge to the organisers of this event, to look forward and continue to highlight our narratives, to empower our perspectives and our oral histories.”

As the flotilla heads to other locations, the critical discussions continue.