Rawiri Waititi: It’s not about a tie – it’s about Pākehā power

OPINION:

In July 2004, Trevor Mallard gave a speech as the coordinating minister for Race Relations. He opined that under the Treaty, Māori were given the same rights as other British citizens. But Māori have no extra rights or privileges under the Treaty or in the policy of New Zealand, he stated.

People of British descent have done extraordinary well at becoming more equal than the indigenous people of this country because by way of parliamentary law – they nationalised all Māori assets in the name of the common good. They nationalised gold and minerals. They nationalised gas and petroleum.

The trickle down from these policies benefited few if any Māori.

Mallard went on to say that Māori and Pākehā are both indigenous people to New Zealand now – “I regard myself as an indigenous New Zealander. I come from Wainuiomata.”

Given this small snippet of Mr Mallard’s background, you will understand that his assertion that Māori must wear a European neck tie into Parliament has nothing to do with a dress standard. It has everything to do with asserting Pākehā power.

He will allow a foreigner to wear their neck adornment in Parliament, and yet he won’t afford the same right to Māori MPs, the representatives of the indigenous people of Aotearoa, tangata whenua.

In my maiden speech I quoted our Te Whakatōhea tīpuna Mokomoko, who said “tangohia te taura i taku kakī, kia waiata au i taku waiata” [Take the noose from around my neck so that I may sing my song.]

I took off the colonial tie as a sign that it continued to colonise, to choke and to suppress out Māori rights that Mallard suggests gives us all equality.

We’ve just come out of Waitangi Day, and acknowledging the covenant between two nations, tangata whenua and tauiwi – and yet Aotearoa is a long way off from true partnership when foreigners enforce Māori to dress like them.

Equality under Te Tiriti is not about looking like, talking like, smelling like and acting like Trevor Mallard.

I have every right to represent my people and reflect their dress, their culture. There is only one indigenous people in this country and it is not a white man from Wainuiomata.

So across this country, everyone knows it has nothing to do with a Pākehā tie. It has everything to do with the right of Māori to be Māori, whether in Parliament or in the pub.

I regret my poor whānau sitting across the benches suffocated by the Labour Party in not allowing them to voice their support for me.

This is about more than just the tie or the taonga, this has everything to do with equality.

It has everything to do with the colonial agenda that continues to force Māori to be like Pākehā.

I will never bow my head to Pākehā power. I will never surrender my culture.

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