I first went to Waitangi in 1984 on what was known as the “Hikoi ki Waitangi”. That hikoi was all about how the Treaty had not been honoured and highlighted the injustices that had happened in the previous 144 years.
It was a wonderful protest and march and was led by some of Maoridom's finest protest leaders – Eva Rickard, Titewhai Harawira, Syd Jackson, Mat Rata and Whina Cooper were among the many who took part. They all left an indelible impression on my 22-year-old self.
I was particularly impressed by the strong leadership that was shown on the hikoi and I’ve thought about that time at length this past weekend after the debacle regarding the Prime Minister’s cancelled visit to Waitangi.
I have a lot of admiration for Northern Maori or Ngapuhi, they have produced some of Maoridom's finest advocates and leaders. There was the great Sir James Henare, Dame Whina Cooper, Dame Mira Szászy, Titewhai Harawira, Mat Rata, Hone Harawira and Winston Peters, just to name a few. But somehow, come Waitangi Day, that leadership just disappears.
Now admittedly some of the people I have named are now dead but Hone and Titiwhai are still around and so is Winston, add to the mix Ngapuhi Chair Hone Sadler, Ngati Hine leaders Pita Tipene, Wassie Shortland and Rudy Taylor, academics and Iwi advocates Rangi Walker, Pat Hohepa and Margaret Mutu, former Ministers of Maori Affairs Dover Samuels and Tau Henare, former Labour Party Minister and now Pacific Island Ambassador Shane Jones and the newest star for the Labour Party, Kelvin Davis.
That tells me that Ngapuhi probably has more leaders than any other tribe in the country. So the big question has to be asked - where on earth do they all disappear to when these big decisions are made regarding whether the Prime Minister visits or not?
Surely the latest bout of madness, where Key was told he wasn’t invited, then was invited but told he couldn’t talk politics, should activate some of the leaders who I have just named to come up with a strategy that ensures that such stupidity cannot happen again. They should know that most Kiwis believe that the Prime Minister going to Waitangi is a waste of time, and in fact too many still think Waitangi Day is just a day off and have yet to buy into any commemoration or celebration of the day or our nationhood.
So it is imperative that some of Ngapuhi’s key leaders now step up and come up with a strategy to save the day. To pretend that it was no big deal that Key didn’t turn up is absolute nonsense. The Prime Minister not being there adds fuels to the fire for the sceptics and red necks who aren’t interested in this country or Maori history. If Ngapuhi leadership refuse to respond then the future of Waitangi Day being celebrated as our National day will no doubt be threatened yet again.
Willie Jackson and Alison Mau, 12-3pm weekdays on RadioLIVE