Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Tangata Whenua: To be or not to be

Another Waitangi Day; another "national celebration".  To be quite honest, I don't find much to celebrate.  I know this is a beautiful country - I wouldn't truly like to live anywhere else - but beauty's just skin deep isn't it?  It's what's under the skin that really matters.

As a family researcher, I wonder if I'd think and feel differently if I had Maori DNA?  The first time I saw a photograph of one of my great-great-grandmothers, I wondered if she had Maori blood.  It was the lips that did it.  Turned out she wasn't part Maori at all but an English immigrant with a very distinctive mouth.  As a six year-old in the 1960s I was asked by a class-mate if I was a Maori, because I had "big lips".

Try as I might, I can't claim any Maori ancestry.  My mitochondrial DNA tells me my ancient ancestors lived in what is now known as Greece, before spreading out to Scandanavia and the British Isles.  Before Greece, they were in what is now called Africa, the cradle of humankind.  My more recent ancestors were of British extraction.  End of.

Did I want to find evidence of Maori lineage?  In a way, yes.  I already feel a part of this land - I have no other to call home - but even after five generations it's not considered my country.  I have relatives with Maori ancestry, even my own grand-daughters.  Trying to untangle New Zealand families to make us "one or the other" would be near on impossible.

None of us sprung from the soil; none of us has more right to water and air than anyone else.  Yes, there are some genuine grievances and they need to be addressed, but greed, brutality and racism are not traits of any one race.  What it comes down to is we are all immigrants to this country and we are all New Zealanders.