New Zealand confronts violent past, gives new hope to Maori

WAITANGI, New Zealand (AP) — Their land was confiscated, their homes burned down and many of their people killed.

Now, 150 years later, the indigenous Ngai Tuhoe tribe in New Zealand is getting a new start. The government has apologized for its past atrocities, handed over 170 million New Zealand dollars ($128 million) and agreed the tribe should manage a sprawling, rugged national park it calls home.

Maroi.jpgLast year's settlement is one of dozens the government has signed with Maori tribes in a comprehensive, multibillion-dollar process described in a U.N. report as imperfect but nevertheless "one of the most important examples in the world of an effort to address historical and ongoing grievances of indigenous peoples."

The payouts have transformed some of the tribes into major economic players in a nation where Maori make up 15 percent of the country's 4.5 million people. They have also contributed to a broader cultural renaissance and improved prospects for Maori.

Tamiti Kruger, who led the negotiations for the Tuhoe tribe, or "iwi," said the settlement provoked great emotion, especially for older tribal members.

"They could not believe that they would be alive in a time when they would witness the return of their homeland," he said.

The settlements are the result of legal claims brought by tribes against the government for breaches of the nation's founding document, the Treaty of Waitangi.

The 1840 agreement effectively handed Britain sovereignty of New Zealand while guaranteeing Maori certain rights over traditional land and fisheries. Versions in Maori and English stated different things, and the treaty's implications, including whether Maori ever willingly ceded sovereignty, continue to be debated.

 

Read more of this story by Nick Perry Here.

Photo by AP