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Toitu Te Tiriti

My name is Haley Maxwell and I was born in Tūranganui ā Kiwa back in May 1981. From my name alone you would probably picture someone who looks the opposite to me. So growing up I never felt like my name and my soul ever truly connected. So Hailz is what most people call me and what I prefer to be called. 

When I was born I was the third child to Henry Maxwell and Christine Boyd, and in 1982 our parents married and moved us all to South Auckland for dad to pursue his passion playing rugby. My siblings and I returned to Gizzy every holiday to stay with our grandparents under the shelter of Titirangi Maunga, on Ranfurly Road, in Kaiti. 

We were sometimes labelled ‘city slickers’ by some whānau but Nan and Pāpā’s whare was a safe haven, a kōhanga reo and a place where we were fortunate to hear Te Reo Māori and able to see our culture. The view from their whare was Te Poho o Rawiri Marae and sitting out front under the Pohutukawa tree with our Pāpā, looking over the road at the marae and maunga with the thick smell of the works in the air, is one of my fondest memories. 

The rest of our world however, was very different. We attended kindergarten and mainstream schools, like the majority of other kids that looked like us and sounded like us. I remember feeling like I never belonged and always felt like something was missing, I was a bit lost! 

I was 11 years old when I realised it was my Māoritanga that I was missing. Thankfully our oldest sister chose to enrol into an intermediate with a Māori bilingual unit, Te Whānau o Tupuranga. She unknowingly paved the way for all of us, opening our everyday lives to our culture, reconnecting us to our Māori world. 

It was in this precious space that I learned of the Te Tiriti o Waitangi, it was also here that the seed was planted and the feeling of belonging and fulfilment grew.  The whakatauki, or motto for our learning space said “Ka ruia te kākāno ki te rangatahi kia tipu ai te hua whangaia ki ngā tipuranga.”  Plant the seed in the young and it will grow and flourish for future generations.  We are now an embodiment of this whakatauki, instilled in us from the very beginning of our journey. 

Because of this experience, at 14 years old I made the decision to relocate to Tūranganui ā Kiwa to reconnect and learn more about who I am as a descendant of Ngāti Porou.   

From a lost little girl to now, a 42 year old mother of 6 beautiful children and one precious mokopuna, and a very proud advocate of our reo and culture. It has not been easy, nor perfect, but the journey of reclamation has been worth it for the wellbeing of my children and now my mokopuna. 

Te Tiriti o Waitangi to me, is an agreement between tangata whenua and the crown, a partnership that promises to look after and protect the wellbeing and prosperity of all things that are precious to me as a Māori.  It is a legal agreement that our partners have breached and abused for 183 years now, and I fear for the future of my mokopuna as the current government threatens again to strip us of the little bit of taonga, wealth and health that we cling to. 

Early last December, Kiri Waititi put a call out via social media to all Māori influencers to help activate a movement called Toitu Te Tiriti. A movement that is Tipuna inspired, Tiriti led, Mana Motuhake driven and Mokopuna focussed. Giving those who heard this call only a few days to activate a hikoi to take place on the 5th of December across Aotearoa. Myself and another local māmā heeded to this call as we both saw that Te Tairāwhiti had not responded and within 18 hours to go we managed to organise and activate our Tairāwhiti Toitū Te Tiriti movement and community. 

Now, I don't consider myself a Māori influencer at all, nor am I an expert on Te Tiriti. But when your head, heart and puku align with a kaupapa that you truly believe in, all you need to do is have courage, stand up, put your hand up, show up and speak up. The next event will be held at Te Poho o Rawiri Marae on Waitangi day, Feb 6th 2024. Aunty Charlotte Gibson has extended the invitation for all to attend this kaupapa. 

Toitū Te Tiriti is not a political movement, it is an activation to educate, learn, and read; to unite to stand and speak for a better partnership, for a better relationship between tangata whenua and tangata Tiriti. For all manuhiri or guests who our tipuna welcomed and happily agreed to share what they treasured and had looked after for generations, it is time to be better partners, it is time to meet us halfway, it is time to stand with us in our time of need. 

Just recently I visited the newly amended art piece in Te Papa Wellington. Some call it vandalism but for me it is a powerful statement that has created an awareness, discussion, debate and knowledge about Te Tiriti o Waitangi and the many injustices we have endured as a people. I sat there amongst many non-Māori who had no idea that the Treaty existed, as well as people who weren’t aware that the English translation did not reflect the Māori version that over 500 Māori chiefs had supported and signed. 

The Toitū Te Tiriti movement is open for anyone to be a part of, whether you are Māori or non Māori. It’s about us learning together, supporting each other, and getting out and talking about it with our friends and whānau. 

Find like minded people and BE about it together. We all have to be willing to learn, and know that it’s an emotional journey that may take you to places that make you feel angry, sad and a little bit mad. Sit with it and know that the only way forward is to first go back, to reflect and feel as humans. Starting to learn te reo Māori might be as simple as learning how to pronounce words properly and some of the rich history of the town that we live in. 

Together we can honour this agreement, united we can create an Aotearoa Hou that looks and feels more uniquely like US, as the treaty intended. 

Toitū Te Tiriti!

By Haley Maxwell Toitū Te Tiriti Hikoi photo by Lara Mua.

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