Houses not rhetoric

Steve Elers writes in Stuff:

Parts of last year’s speech at Waitangi by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern sounded like we were in 1840, not 2019, especially when she said: “We will keep building the foundations to bring our two houses together and that ultimately will be the foundation for which Te Arawhiti will be formed. The bridge between our two houses.”

I suppose, based on my whakapapa, physical appearance and self-identity, that puts me in the Māori house. But what about Māori who have more Pākehā ancestry than Māori whakapapa?

Someone with a dark complexion like myself was my fourth-great-grandfather Wiremu Tamihana (1805-1866), chief of Ngāti Hauā of the Tainui confederation. Yes, I know everyone has 64 fourth-great-grandparents, but let’s not ruin a good story and let’s not downplay my chiefly heritage.

Tamihana was known as the “kingmaker” because of his role in establishing the Māori King movement. The photograph accompanying was taken by Elizabeth Pulman (1836-1900), who was New Zealand’s first female professional photographer.

My daughters, Anahera and Māia, are direct descendants of both Wiremu Tamihana, through my mother’s whakapapa, and Pulman, through my wife’s father’s ancestry. As far as I know, my daughters are the only descendants of both.

When they’re older, Anahera and Māia can look at that image knowing they are descendants of the Māori chief in it and the English-born photographer who took it. However, I hope they will recognise the multifaceted aspects of their whakapapa and understand they are first and foremost themselves – individuals who have the freedom to determine their own paths in life without being constrained by historical events that occurred before they were born.

A good aspiration.

So, this Waitangi Day, instead of our prime minister giving a speech about “building the foundations to bring our two houses together” like she did last year, perhaps she can tell us how she is going to build actual houses, like the 100,000 she promised in the last election campaign. That’s more useful to Māori and Pākehā than meaningless rhetoric about bringing “our two houses together”.

They’re making progress. After two years they’re at 0.31% of their election promise.

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