Indigenous rangatahi react and reflect on what the Queen’s passing means to them
Over the past two weeks, the world has reacted to the passing of Queen Elizabeth II. There have been outbursts of acknowledgements, emotions, and tears for whom many view as their cherished sovereign. But for many across the world, there has been a more fervent reaction. Indigenous people and those residing in countries with long histories of oppression of the Crown have made their voices heard. A Scottish man was arrested for calling out Prince Andrews affiliation with convicted child sex trafficker Jeffery Epstein. During one protest, a participant said, “I don’t think someone should be born into a position of power, to rule over us”.
News outlets continue to define the reactions to Queen Elizabeth’s relationships with indigenous communities as “mixed” and “conflicted”. We should call it what it is. Queen Elizabeth and the Crown have cascaded violence across multiple realms. Tears are shed for the Queen when they should have been shed for the Jamaicans, the Irish, the Indians, the Aboriginals of Australia, the Māori, the Pakistanis, the Yemenis, the Kenyans, and everywhere else the British flag flew.
Many Māori leaders have come out to acknowledge the Queen’s passing but remain conflicted over our colonial history and present. For indigenous people, her passing provoked conflicting feelings. The Queen’s reign occurred over a period of history where injustice was done to indigenous people.
For many young Māori, it is hard for us to acknowledge her in a way that is respectful, without being reminded of the monarchy’s role in Māori land and culture loss. We are told to be civil and graceful with regards to her passing. That we should feel for her whānau and that she was a mother, a sister, aunt, and grandmother to someone. But I ask, how many grandmas has the Crown and her family subdued and subjugated? Were the wahine Māori who suffered land loss and oppression not grandmothers to their mokopuna? What do you honestly expect from us? Are you surprised by the reaction? Being told to “be civil” in this situation is just another way of being told to “die politely”. There is emotional fatigue when we are told to grieve for our opressor.
In an eventual apology to Māori with regards to te Tiriti, the Queen said that the Treaty had been “imperfectly observed”. I mean honestly, what the fuck does that mean? It sounds like a really shit apology. A lovely way to say, ”we are sorry for 150 years of colonisation” without admitting any guilt. She chose her words carefully.
Earlier this year, Matariki was celebrated as a public holiday, albet with opposition from New Zealand’s National party. Despite saying National supported celebrating Matariki, Christopher Luxon said that adding a public holiday without pulling one from the calendar adds 450 million dollars worth of cost to small businesses. The Queen got a public holiday within a week of her passing. I wait with anticipation for Christopher Luxon to keep the same energy he had for Matariki for this public holiday, because so far he hasn’t. The length of time it took for Matariki to be nationally acknowledged comparatively is astounding. Te Tiriti was signed in 1840. We didn’t celebrate Māori language DAY (not even a week at that point) until 1975. The Matariki Bill was proposed in 2009 and took 13 more years for the nation to celebrate it as a public holiday. The Queen dies and gets one within a fortnight. It leaves questions as to what the apprehensiveness is really about and what they are really fighting against, because it seems more and more like anti-Māori dialogue to me. After her funeral, no one can complain to me again about the length of time Māori staff members spend at tangihanga.
UoA student Kristen (Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Pūkenga) shared her views on what the Queen’s passing meant for her, her friends, and her whanau. “This past week, indigenous people have been bombarded by reverence of the Queen every day, feeling like no one has really taken into account the suffering the Crown has brought upon Māori”. On the topic of having a public holiday, “I don’t hear the same people who were complaining about Matariki being a public holiday voicing any concern about this sudden new one.”
Ngaio (Ngāi Tūhoe) comments on her iwi and their relationship to the Crown. “My people are a strong people, our resilience against the crown goes back decades”. “People like Tame Iti have sought true justice for our people and [while] the Queen’s passing is sad for her whānau, [it] reminds us of the intergenerational trauma our people are enduring”. Tūhoe artist, activist and kaumātua Tame Iti said it is time for Aotearoa to re-examine its relationship with the Crown in the wake of Queen Elizabeth’s death.
Mikaere (Ngāpuhi) expressed that, amongst his friends, there really isn’t any grieving taking place. “What she means to others is the way we feel, we acknowledge that someone has passed away and give full aroha in that respect, but that has never been reciprocated towards us, whether it be through land back, or restitution. That aroha has not been shown to us, so for our people to still be expected to show respect is demeaning to our history”.
I see a lot written on social media. The righteous anger of indigenous people all over the world, for the violence the crown has seeped upon our peoples. Our tikanga is clear, we allow time for her whānau to grieve, but the Queen was the personification of British colonialism. I send my condolences alongside my condemnation.