Philippa Werry. Waitangi Day – The New Zealand Story: what it is and why it matters. New Holland Publishers, 1 January 2015, 64pp $AU22.20/$NZ24.99 (pbk) ISBN 978-1-86966-421-3
Waitangi Day (February 6) is the day of contemporary “celebration” in New Zealand of the founding document that grounds historic relationship between Māori and pakeha. A treaty between Maori and pakeha was signed in 1840 that established the basis of governance the indigenous peoples by the early settlers from the United Kingdom. The word celebration is a contested space in that what was signed (the translations) signified quite different ideas for the two peoples and, in the nature of colonisation, the implications were largely ignored by pakeha. However, in 1975 the Waitangi tribunal was established that gave legal basis for the resolution of historic grievances that has (and continues) to result in agreed compensation claims.
This is a vital, well-illustrated book for all young New Zealanders to understand some of the realities and nuances of this journey into establishing what forms our national identity. The five chapters that detail Early meetings; What happened next; Change, protest and progress; Waitangi Day in the 21st century; and What to see when visiting Waitangi, clearly detail something of the complexity of the significance of the event. It has not been an easy journey and this “celebration” has caused considerable grief so it is important that children go beyond the surface events that take place on this day and understand and empathize with all parties involved. This book is essential to this journey. It is not a heavy tome (though there is considerable research that is detailed with additional glossaries, timelines, and further book/web based bibliographies). It is visually presented with historic and contemporary photographs, paintings, cartoons, maps, informative inserts, posters and flags. It is an engaging text that is highly recommended.
reviewed by John McKenzie