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Let’s overcome ‘them and us’ syndrome

Opinion Piece

Another round of strong opinions are being expressed in The Herald regarding the upcoming event planned to commemorate the 250th anniversary of Lieutenant James Cook’s arrival in Turanga nui a Kiwa and Uawa.

The first meetings of Maori and Europeans are significant and should not be seen in isolation from major historical events that happened in our short collective history — namely colonisation by the settler culture thanks to Cook’s “discovery”, the impact this had on the traditional life of tangata whenua, a Treaty signed in good faith but weaponised to assure dominance and subsequent alienation of Maaori land and sovereignty, resulting in the Land Wars.

History shows us these are some of the root causes of why cultural anxieties exist in our nation and in this community, and why Maaori feel deeply aggrieved.

We are being told that the 250th commemoration is not a celebration of Cook’s visit to these shores, of one culture’s dominance over another. Rather, it is an acknowledgement of our collective beginnings, a journey where perhaps now for the first time other narratives are challenging previously-held strong beliefs about how we came to nationhood, and to be the society and country we are today.

That being said, Cook’s personal achievements as a navigator and explorer are remarkable — as are the exploits of the early Polynesian seafarers, some of whom made a landfall in te Tairawhiti.

One thing is clear. We cannot turn back the clock and change history. Warts and all we either accept it, fix up our mistakes and move on, or we can regress and enter into an eternal state of denial and discontent.

Despite our past history, Maaori and Paakeha have much in common with each other — despite our perceived differences. Whether we are rich or poor, educated or not, have high or low station in life, we can overcome the cursed “them and us” syndrome that subtly undergirds this community by seeing each other first and foremost as fellow pilgrims, with the same hopes and aspirations for ourselves and for those whom we cherish and love.

Isn’t that something really worth celebrating?

Wally Te Ua