Thursday, April 22, 2010

Declaration of Indigenous Rights

It's in the news - NZ is signing up to it at last. It will be interesting to see what the ramifications are. You can read it online here.

Sandra has encouraged me to give my thoughts on the big picture relationship between industrialisation/capitalism and colonisation, and I feel a bit daunted, but the starting point is: Everything the majority of people who live here today take for granted is built on the colonisation and dispossession of the first people here.

As Pakeha we only live here today, and live the lifestyles we do, because our forebears flooded into the country and took it over, using military might and, above all, sheer force of numbers to push the existing people here off their land.

Then lots of our forbears got richer than they ever could have done back in their own countries. They got rich because they now had plenty of cheap land to use that they had pushed other people off.

And if we feel that was all in the past (all of 150 years ago or so), we could remind ourselves that lots of us are still prospering, relatively speaking, living on that land that was taken.

At the same time, many of those who were alienated from their land have not been prospering - partly because without land they didn't have the means. Their community economies as well as their self-reliance were taken.

I suggested to someone at Puke Ariki that for some Maori it has been like a 150-year recession/depression. He agreed.

That's my first point. I'll add to it over the next few weeks, point by point, and maybe with a bit of luck it will hang together semi-coherently by the end of it!


Madz said...

nice post. good to see people bringing the real issues with NZ re indigenous relations to the online community.
just to add, it wasn't really so much military force but legislative force that forced Maori people off their land and displaced the people from their homelands into urban environments.

It was these so-called "legislations" passed by European governments with the primary intention of gaining access to Maori land that were the biggest contributors to why Maori as a people are the way we are today - urbanised, poor and in the cases of a lot of young urban families ignorance of their own culture.

Johanna Knox said...

Hi Madz - thanks very much for your comment. Yes. I agree the way legislation was wielded by the govt like a weapon is quite mind boggling.

They could only get away with it once the European numbers were up, and have been getting away with it ever since ... That's why I kind of feel that when John Key says the Declaration is not binding -- well, it won't be.

I don't want to take away from the celebrating of it, and it is a great step and achievement, but I can't help cynically feeling that the Govt can still just carry on conveniently ignoring these kinds of ethical issues when it wants to, because it always has. And it has the numbers.

Johanna Knox said...

... yikesI didn't mean that to sound so final as it did!!! Hopefully progress can be made though if everyone keeps thinking and talking about it ...!!

Johanna Knox said...

... And I should add, none of this is to deny that so much progress HAS been made on some fronts ...

Ruth said...

ooh, i didn't realise you were passionate about this either! must have a chat real time one day. x

Rimu said...

Yes, that's what happened. That is also what happened when every single other nation was created. In some cases it was so long ago that it has been forgotten, but it still happened.

We are not unique in that regard.

Rimu said...

(The creation of a nation pretty much requires one group to dominate all others that were there before.)

Where we are unique is that it happened very recently, and there was this treaty thrown together over 3 days, written in two different languages with different meanings... That's problematic.

Johanna Knox said...

Hi Rimu - yeah, we're not unique.

It's an interesting debate though - should you just stand back and say, well, that's what happens - that's what humans do - or do you say, this was crap for some people, what do we do now to try and sort things out? (And there are so many areas where you can have this debate ... environmental destruction/biosphere change; the dog-eat-dog aspect of business ...)

And how long has to pass, before you say, 'it was all too long ago to worry about'?

In places like Australia and America the effects of colonisation are still obviously heavily felt by the indigenous nations. That was slightly (not that much) longer ago than colonisation here ...They've got lots of work to do to sort things out, too ...

I know there are a heap of other examples, but I know very little about them.