Not long ago from today the great Coronation of King Charles the III took place allowing our precious monarchy to live on. Though, I do question what it is exactly that the British royalty do all day…and after a quick google search they appear to not really do anything at all. As a matter of fact, pulling a direct quote from the first pop up after googling that exact question, it is confirmed that “The Sovereign acts as a focus for national identity, unity and pride; gives a sense of stability and continuity; officially recognises success and excellence; and supports the ideal of voluntary service.”—ultimately they don’t provide much.
And although these values of unity, national identity, pride and so on are very much valuable for a kingdom to uphold. Experiencing that reinforcement from certain individuals of the royal family, labelled by Rāwiri Waititi in a recent indigenous conference as “thieves, murderers, and cowards” isn’t so comforting knowing the power they possess.
As we all should know, the Māori king, Kingi Tūheitia, was invited to attend the coronation of king Charles the III. Kingi Tūheitia did indeed attend with the intention to continue to hold the Crown accountable for its role as a partner to Te Tiriti o Waitangi.
Our Kīngi met with king Charles at a private audience earlier in the day where they shared a laugh and Tūheitia bestowed four gifts upon the monarch including: The Order of King Pōtatau Te Wherowhero in the Supreme Class, the highest honour in the Kīingitanga Royal Orders reserved exclusively for Monarchs; the Order of Queen Te Arikinui Te Atairangikāhu in the First Class was given to Queen Consort Camilla, Te Wherowhero tartan gifted to Charles and a mere pounamu, He Kura Pounamu.
Unfortunately, the peace and joy of the gathering was swiftly disrupted following an occurrence that took place later in the coronation during the evening. This occurrence can be more accurately labelled as an unfollowing of proper tikanga. As it should’ve been known, the event was supposed to begin with an open karakia in suit of the attending Māori guests. The absence of this karakia and proper Māori opening prompted Kīngi Tūheitia to speak up with disappointment in regards to the government and everyone there. The delegation claimed that they felt “belittled” by government officials and that they “continue to be silenced” time and time again.
And honestly the sad part is it isn’t surprising for te iwi Māori. Although it is shocking yes, but definitely not surprising, given our experiences of disrespect that we experience time and time again.
As a wahine Māori, writing this, it is even more upsetting having to comment on a second blatant absence of respect towards Māori and Te Kīngitanga where despite Kīngi Tūheitia sitting directly in front of him, High Commissioner Phil Goff claimed that no one in the chamber had ever witnessed a coronation, the very same chamber where Tūheitia digested those words after attending the coronations of his mother, the Māori Queen, and of course his own coronation, making this Tūheitia’s third.
The British monarchy has a long and complex history with Indigenous cultures, particularly in countries that were colonised by the British Empire and that includes our own. The impact of the monarchy on these cultures has been profound, and recent events such as the King’s coronation have brought these issues back into the spotlight.
For many Indigenous peoples alike to Ngai Māori of Aotearoa, the British monarchy represents the legacy of colonialism and the trauma that it inflicted. The history of colonisation in many countries akin to New Zealand has left deep scars on Indigenous communities, with the monarchy serving as a symbol of that legacy. From the forced removal of children to residential schools, to the destruction of traditional ways of life and the loss of land; Indigenous cultures have been profoundly affected by the actions of the British Empire.
The recent coronation of the new King has hence raised questions about the monarchy’s relationship with Indigenous peoples, particularly in countries where the monarch serves as the head of state. Some Indigenous leaders have called for a reassessment of this relationship, arguing that it is time for the monarchy to acknowledge the harm that has been done and work to repair those relationships.
Others, however, argue that the monarchy has no place in modern society and that it should be abolished altogether. They point to the history of colonisation and the ongoing struggles of Indigenous peoples as evidence that the monarchy represents a system of power and privilege that needs to be dismantled.
Despite these debates, there is no denying that the monarchy continues to represent a symbol of colonialism or a relic of a bygone era, its influence cannot be ignored.