From Heritage New Zealand Summer 2006
by Paul Little
There's more than one way to commemorate the Treaty of Waitangi
Mangungu Mission House - the site of a Treaty signing, and innovative commemorations.
Image: David Reynolds, NZHPT
Although firmly and forever associated with Waitangi, the Treaty that bears its name was signed at many sites around the country, each of them special in its own way. The signing at Mangungu Mission House near Horeke is notable for being that at which more people added their names to our founding document than any other. Today, Mangungu is notable as the focus for a remarkable act of commemoration that was the brainchild of Ray Pomare, secretary of the Horeke Development Trust.
“In 2006 we had a hikoi and took a group of kids from Waimate Mission Station to Horeke over three days,” explains Pomare. “We camped for the night and talked to the children about the impact the Treaty has on them.” As well as the children, who ranged in age from primary school level to teenagers, the group was accompanied by MP Shane Jones and Hone Harawira, who talked to them about the Treaty’s significance for them.
The walk changed many of the students’ perceptions. “At the start, they thought it was about contention. We turned it around and said it was a good thing, because it meant one people one nation. After discussing the Treaty for three days on the way, we asked the children: given what you know now, would you have signed?
“There was a dialogue all the way along. ‘You know what, Uncle Ray, I wouldn’t have signed it.’ That was day one, but by day three they could see there was benefit in signing it.” Pomare got the idea for the hikoi after doing research into Treaty architect Governor William Hobson’s journey, when he decided “to travel the Treaty”. Pomare saw a fit with the kaupapa of the trust, which is to give young people experiences they otherwise wouldn’t have. In this case, “It was about making the Treaty available to young people.”
And not just Maori young people. “We had several races. There were about 60 per cent Maori and 40 per cent Pakeha or other ethnic cultures.”
All went according to plan, but Pomare and the rest of the group weren’t prepared for what they found when they reached the end of their journey. “There were about 500 people before us. The waka arrived. The old ketch was there. Shane Jones the MP said, ‘This is outstanding.’ I said, ‘Well, this is our answer to Xbox.’
They never had that the whole three days, but what we did have was absolute camaraderie, Pakeha and Maori working together. It was testimony to what the treaty was all about.
“It was a lot of physicality, but we needed to take them somewhere they weren’t used to being. They needed to understand and respect that our tupuna, including Hobson, got on a horse and came all the way over. It took him six days, and with all our technology it took three days. He came from Waitangi, and we only came from Waimate.”
Mangungu is incontrovertibly the site where the largest number of people signed the Treaty, but estimates of how many did so are imprecise. Pomare says there were 27 signatories but the issue is muddied because “the scribes for Mr Hobson that day didn’t acknowledge that the signers were all chiefs”.
And as far as Pomare is concerned, “that’s not the important bit for us. Our children absolutely know this was the biggest signing that took place anywhere, but we believe that it definitely changed Hobson’s attitude. He believed that when the chiefs came up to sign, it was a case of: ‘The ink’s there. I’ve got it!’ And he made a big hurrah about it.”
Pomare isn’t one to repeat himself. For next year’s anniversary he is taking the opposite approach. Rather than a hikoi, he is planning something stationary. He will conduct about 40 children in a sleep-over at Mangungu Mission Station itself. And, in keeping with his ambition to acknowledge both parties of the Treaty, the focus this time will be on Hobson.
“We’re going to workshop about ‘What was William Hobson thinking on the night before he presented this document?’ An author [and former HPT board member] named Ruth Ross wrote a play about this signing at Mangungu, and we’re going to rehearse that play and present it on Monday the 12th of February to the masses."
It’s all very different from the ceremonies at Waitangi, where Pomare also takes children every year. For a start, it’s a lot less formal. “They have protocols they have to follow,” says Pomare, “whereas here Pakeha and Maori are one whanau. A lot of the kids are descendants of signers and of local people who weren’t here on the day, like Charles de Thierry. The De Thierrys are still here, and we drag them along and say, ‘Look what your tupuna missed.’ ”