James and I spent a weekend in Paihia just by ourselves and decided to explore the Waitangi Treaty grounds. I’ve visited Waitangi many times but this was the first time that I’ve explored the treaty grounds like this.
It’s definitely a place that every New Zealander should visit. I’d recommend putting aside at least 4 hours and booking in the guided tours (they are included in your entry). We only had 2 hours and it just wasn’t enough.
There is so much to see and learn here and it is all done in such a fascinating way blending history and historic buildings and places seamlessly with modern technology.
There are a number of places to explore and learn at Waitangi but there were four in particular that I found particularly inspiring. It’s a testament to the place that I didn’t take a lot of pictures. I was just too busy being in the moment, and in some places, in particular Te Rau Aroha Museum of the Price of Citizenship, it just didn’t seem right to be taking photos.
Te Kōngahu Museum of Waitangi
This museum was opened in 2016 and blew my mind with the interactive displays and videos and the way it guided you through our history balancing the journey and voices of both Māori and Pākehā. At one point I walked in to an empty room and a video started playing and I stood there rooted to the spot, utterly engaged. After a while I turned to see where James was and saw instead that the entire room was full and I was standing in front of them all (probably blocking half of their view). I watched the rest from the back!
Te Rau Aroha Museum of the Price of Citizenship
This was just utterly heartbreaking. I’m don’t have the words to adequately explain it but what I took from it was a sense of just how much Māori were prepared to put on the line to be one nation. The scale of the loss is immense and the way it is portrayed is beautiful and moving.
I love old buildings and wandering through them trying to imagine what it would have been like to live there in that time. Treaty House, built in 1840, played witness to so many conversations that shaped our country and still has the antique furniture but in them now are touch screens you can swipe to find out more. I really feel like if history was this immersive I would have learned so much more as a kid.
The spot where Te Tiriti o Waitangi was signed, it is out in the open and flanked by stunning views on every side.
I was at the point where I needed some fresh air and wide open spaces to wander through and connect with my surroundings again and this was just what I needed.
A bit on how Waitangi made me feel
I was torn about my feelings when I was at Waitangi Treaty Grounds and I still am now trying to put them on paper. So here they are in a very raw, unfiltered sense. I know not everyone will feel like this when they visit. You may not even want to read how it made me feel and just go alone and feel your own feelings. I’m not claiming my views are right or reflect anyone else. But this was how Waitangi left me feeling.
I felt sadness around how the treaty has not been honoured.
I felt frustration around the cultural void both then and now that kept Māori and Pākehā from understanding each other.
I felt embarrassed about the way some of my people acted and of my lack of knowledge around our countries history and the inaccuracies and incompleteness of what we were taught at school.
I felt uneasy about my place here in a way I had never felt before – growing up I always felt like I belonged but now I feel like that belonging was at a price I didn’t understand.
I felt hopeful that some of this understanding and willingness to work together and understand each others cultures will pave the way for a better, kinder future.
I felt grateful to have had the opportunity over the last 18 months to learn more about Te Ao Māori and learn some Te Reo Māori. Seriously if you are struggling with your pronunciation like I was just remember the Māori vowels sound like “are there three or two” – it’s a game changer.
I felt proud that I could sound out all of the Māori words to say the words correctly and that some of the concepts I was reading about were now familiar to me.
I felt resolute to be part of the solution and to continue to be actively and proudly anti racist.
So they are some big feelings – sadness, frustration, embarrassment, uneasy, hopeful, grateful, proud and resolute. It’s not every day you visit a place that makes you feel all of that in just 2 hours.