By Zita Campbell, Local Democracy Reporter
A hui at Te Poho-o-Rawiri Marae on Waitangi Day highlighted knowledge gaps in the public understanding of Te Tiriti o Waitangi.
More than 100 tangata gathered at the marae for the Wānanga Waitangi.
"We need to be kind," Shaan Te Kani said in her opening kōrero.
She is a descendant of Rāwiri Te Eke Tu-o-te-Rangi, who was a signatory of Te Tiriti. It was important to educate ourselves and our whānau about our history, she said.
Presented by educators Dr Wayne Ngata and Tauira Takurua, the interactive discussion exposed a lack of knowledge for some, and areas of expertise for others, as those attending reflected on Aotearoa's history.
While Morehu Pewhairangi ran a rangatahi session in the wharekai, Dr Ngata split the gathering into groups and asked them to describe the Tairāwhiti region during the years 1820-1840.
The wide range of knowledge shared included the shift to the British clock, the introduction of overseas pests and diseases, the trading of flax and other goods between Māori and Australia, and the 100 percent Māori ownership of land, which is now down to "3 percent and that's debatable", Ngata said.
During that period Māori customs were alive and iwi and hapū lived according to their tikanga.
Gisborne district councillor Rhonda Tibble said the real problem about the Treaty was that five generations later, most did not know the story.
A Horizon Research survey, conducted for Te Kāhui Tika Tangata Human Rights Commission in 2023, proved Tibble's point.
According to the study of non-Māori and Māori participants, only 58 percent said they were informed about the Treaty of Waitangi, with 32 percent believing they were uninformed.
The study showed only 13 percent have read the te reo Māori Treaty and 23 percent have read the English version.
Ngata concluded the discussion saying, "There was no L-A-W. What governed people's behaviour was L-O-R-E, and whether you were strong enough to maintain that."
There was Māori lore, but no one was governing the foreigners and alcohol was contributing to a state of lawlessness on both sides, he said.
"Māori didn't necessarily want to change that, but Europeans wanted to change it because they were losing control of their own.
"We need to be clear, it was not a good place to be, particularly for Māori, and so you can understand the context of why something needed to happen", and why people signed the Treaty.
Tibble had the whole room laughing during the discussion.
"Marriage is hard, so why do we think the Treaty will be easy? Don't you know that marriage is a treaty? So, you tell me, how's the treaty going with your husband at the minute?"
In a comment on social media after the hui, participant Pascale Delos said she loved the format of the wānanga.
"...Starting from our own knowledge, or lack of historical facts at the times of the signature of Te Tiriti. Supported by experts in the field, we were able to go home with clearer views, and open up to our own capability to enforce knowledge and respect of Te Tiriti principles."
LDR is local body journalism co-funded by RNZ and NZ On Air.