An article which critiques treaties as a formalised mechanism legitimising settler-colonial control in Aotearoa, instead positing autonomous insurrection as an alternative means of collective emancipation.
To have been one of the Ariki (paramount chief) or Rangatira (chief) who signed the Treaty of Waitangi, would’ve been horrifying or relieving, full of reluctance or full of optimism, a desperate scribbling or an unknowing surrender to a deceptive snake-state.
My great-great-great grandancestor Rawiri Awarau was one such Ariki who signed the Treaty of Waitangi at Kaitaia on the 28th of April 1840. I know for a fact, that they signed reluctantly.
As a side note before I begin, I’d like to make clear my use of gender-neutrality when describing ‘male’ Maori ancestors in this article, seeing as “man” and “father” are too tied up in the eurocentric conception of the masculine subject, and seeing as we know that translation can be deception and imposition. Besides, the Maori conception of men, as people might call them today, is far superior to the european conception, for reasons I can’t go into here.
As for how my fellow Maori might react to this, I just say: decolonise your mind by decolonising your use of capital’s language and imperial signs. Or alternatively, as I’ve only just recently started peering into: learn your language.
He Wakaputanga o te Rangatiratanga o Nu Tireni (the declaration of independence) is a stronger document than the Treaty of Waitangi, yes. If we’d had a United Tribal Confederation to interact with the British Crown, Maori would be far better off and Aotearoa wouldn’t be subject to heavy resource extraction, or the establishment of disciplinary institutions like the police, the courts system, and the prison. In fact, settlers and visitors would be treated with a lot more manaakitanga (hospitality) than they are now. But no, instead we have two treaty versions. Both of which, I posit, are completely invalid.
Treaties are pieces of shit. They are literally pieces of shit. Here’s why:
1. A treaty is the formalisation of an exploitative relation, so that a higher power softens their hard-power tactics of domination, and dilutes the negations between oppressor and oppressed onto an agreeable plane. They are necessarily a deception.
2. A treaty is the crystallisation of not just a binding politics of recognition, but a double-binding mutual recognition. This means the oppressed concedes that the oppressor has some amount of validity or legitimacy.
3. A treaty becomes the gold medallion of progress, yet it is nothing more than a fickle promise to be broken over and over.
4. A treaty is the ability for an oppressor to recuperate resistance and institute mediators (blood-traitors) who act as quellers and calmers of fervour.
Treaties, I think, can be seen everywhere. They are the result of a view that all social and political-economic grievances can be resolved through discourse, and synthesis. The capital-labour relation as mediated by trade unions, for example, is one such treaty. All treaties are asymmetrical tools for legitimising psychic repression and physical oppression. But all that treaties can do is postpone the inevitable: revolution.
Although direct causation can never really be proven, I’d argue that the Treaty of Waitangi is actually the reason behind the bikie gang warfare of Aotearoa. Since we became objects (the usual word ‘subjects’ would be giving the oppressor too much merit) of the British Empire, and because New Zealand as its own state was allied in World War II, the fast succession of the need to industrialise the country and urbanise Maori led to a huge loss of identity and connection to whenua (land). This urbanisation and proletarianisation of Maori farm workers, who are surprisingly comparable to the peasants of Tsarist Russia, created a void of self which quickly became filled by contrived whanau-identities (whanau, family) built around the idealised vision of African-american gangs/unions whose political operandi was to fight against the consumerist culture of the United States of Amerikkka. But of course, I’m giving a story of origins, not trying to excuse acts of violence against women which Aotearoa’s and Amerikkka’s gangs have been known for.
I’ll just be honest with you here, my agenda for this piece has always been to urge people to stop working within the framework of the oppressor. Whether that be a racial, gender-based, sexual, or political-economic oppressor, or all of them together. This means exiting the dialectic, and by dialectic I mean the idea that a more objective truth should be abstracted out of the process of disagreement, negation, and binary opposition in discourse. We don’t need to talk through the oppressor-oppressed treaty relation, we just need to get rid of it, the oppressor himself, and any possibility that another might take his seat.
To affirm our brave difference in the face of an oppressive and mutually binding mediation would mean, not a declaration of independence, but a declaration of war. More than ever, our land needs us to fight against the colonial-capital powers who should be killed with the elegant stylings of the Hawaiian slaughter of Mr. James Cook. Just, instead of a single man, we need to slaughter a set of relations between people: that of domination, exploitation,dispossession of ourselves, our land, and our self-activity. Instead of internalising oppressive social relations and being interpellated as subjects and objects of the state rather than individuals of the land (tangata whenua), we should fight to reignite the power of our people.
True autonomy comes from the ability to alter the mythologies surrounding the self. Maori now are frozen as pre-colonial proletarianised hybrids stuck between two worlds. But we are more than a subscription to a paralysis of culture, we are people who can shed the oppressor, give up the ghost of our internalised contradictions, and destroy the colonial-capitalist complex set upon us by the fools of the Empire.
What we need is to do is stand upon our koru (fern spiral) green hills and snowy mountains in the mist, to burn the New Zealand flag, the Treaty of Waitangi, and the Declaration of Independence, and to begin an insurrection within which the exploited and alienated multitude of white and immigrant underclasses, and the dispossessed Maori of Aotearoa will find the future waiting beyond every limitation put in front of us by the ruling relations. We need to enter a new stage of our culture, that of free association, mutual aid, and access to resources based on the drive to create new knowledge.
Our people are the great ocean navigators, who saw the whole Pacific and even Antarctica.
And now we must navigate this moana (ocean) again, out of prisons, away from astounding suicide rates (especially in Kaitaia, where my family is from), and onwards from health deficiencies similar across indigenous people worldwide. Aotearoa requires a decolonising, communising continuum of insurrectionary and creative action which powers beyond any 'progressive' reconfiguration of colonial-capital relations. Aotearoa begs us to teach the ways of our social ecology, and to take humanity from technology of production and military, to technology of cooperation with our lands and sea.
My last note is a call for all people in Australia who have been colonised but might not necessarily be indigenous to Australia to form autonomous gangs around tribes and countries within which a healthy dose of radicalisation can take place. Already, a network of radical youth grows in the shadows with the intention of bringing together Indigenous people from all around the world who’ve settled in Australia in order to bring forth the radical spirit of our ancestors. We will not be the same, not united under a homogenising banner or a party line, but we will be freely associated barbarians and omens of the future.