To some, capitalism is at the heart of all the issues of the hīkoi (for example, anti-capitalism must feature at hikoi against asset sales). To me, colonialism is the fundamental issue, and capitalism is just a part of that. I will be on the hīkoi to support tino rangatiratanga.
Tangata whenua have a whakapapa relationship with all elements of the environment—land, air, water, plants, animals, etc.
“The genealogy spreads in an ever increasing web of relationships from the single ancestral source. It includes the spiritual aspects of existence that are common to all things. The bond this creates between humans and the rest of the physical world is both immutable and unseverable.” (Nin Tomas 1994 “Implementing Kaitiakitanga under the RMA” New Zealand Environmental Law Reporter 39, p 40)This recognises people as part of our environment, interdependent with our environment, with the same sort of responsibilities that we have to any of our whānau. Just as whakapapa is unseverable, so too are the responsibilities of whakapapa. Whoever the Crown recognises as the legal owners of land, minerals, water or fisheries, tangata whenua retain the responsibilities of whakapapa (I discuss this in more detail in an earlier post, Te Wao-Nui-a-Tāne, Wai 262 and the Mataatua Declaration). To me, tino rangatiratanga means the ability to assume those responsibilities. Protecting the environment from dangerous practices, such as deep-sea oil drilling or allowing nutrient rich run-off into streams, is a whakapapa responsibility—kaitiakitanga. The Crown sees the ability to make decisions about the environment as a right of its sovereignty.
The Crown has assumed sovereignty and tried to ignore or diminish the rangatiratanga of tangata whenua. I don’t want to spend much time writing about how tangata whenua have been pushed off land, because it is well documented. Taking my iwi (Ngāi Tahu) as an example, where there were ‘sales’, the Crown purchasers behaved dishonestly, promising things they didn’t intend to deliver, and changing deeds after they were signed; the Crown did not attempt to honour its side of many agreements, but expected tangata whenua to honour theirs; some agreements were made under threat; the Crown and tangata whenua always had different understandings and expectations of the agreements (see Harry Evison 1997 The Long Dispute for more enraging detail). Other land was taken for “public works”. Dismissing tikanga Māori, and in breach of its own laws, the Crown ignored all this. It kept some land to itself and sold the most valuable to early colonists (the massive profit was used to build up its government and militia). The Crown has acted as if it behaved morally and legally; this can only be true if Māori are considered irrelevant (although the 1893 Native Land (Validation of Titles) Act, commonly known as the Validation of Invalid Land Sales Act, does suggest that the Crown eventually felt it was important to be seen as subject to its own laws, and so changed them).
Despite all this, in struggling to enact our rangatiratanga, I believe we are in a stronger position fighting against the Crown, than fighting against foreign investors and corporations protected by the Crown and international laws. Māori fought to have Section 9 added to the State Owned Enterprises Act 1986 because it was recognised that the Crown is an easier target than private owners. Part of this is because of the Treaty of Waitangi Act 1975 (S6 (4A)), which ring-fenced all privately owned land from Waitangi Tribunal recommendations. However, I see local ownership as less of a problem, because it only affects domestic law—parliament can change it as easily as it was invented. I think the Crown will be more likely to protect foreign investors and corporations, because it affects our international agreements. Asset sales and sales to offshore of land and resources is an issue of rangatiratanga.
Capitalism itself is a product of western thinking—the focus on competition, individuality, hierarchy, power over, exploitation; the replacement of deep relationships with our environment and each other, with the abstraction of money. The fundamental assumptions of capitalism are western, they are foreign to a Māori understanding of reality, but they are imposed on all of us by the Crown. Tino rangatiratanga means re-centering Māori understandings of reality.
I am hoping the hīkoi is an opportunity for us all to talk about our different realities and reasons for standing against current government policies. I hope that it will be an opportunity for many to learn what tino rangatiratanga and colonisation really mean. I hope we will get to discuss our different understandings of our world and relationships.