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On the meaning of the tino rangatiratanga flag.


So the meaning of the tino rangatiratanga flag is up for debate and if the National Party like what they hear then the flag will fly. One can only imagine what will happen if they don’t like what they hear. Then again, more importantly, who will they be listening to in the first place?

That is one of the things I’ve been wondering, ever since Te Ata Tino Toa activists finally got attention again on their plight to fly the TR flag on the Auckland Harbour Bridge this coming Waitangi Day. When the Maori Party’s Pita Sharples took up the task of getting their new coalition government to agree to fly the flag, new PM John Key’s reply was that he had “no particular reason” to object to the Maori flag flying however he wanted full consultation with Maori around the meaning of the flag first.

Since then I have spotted several articles in NZ papers and the discussion is no doubt going on in other media too. There were a few comments in the paper which caught my eye: “One flag for one people…United we stand, divided we fall” by D.Shuker, letters Jan 21 2009, NZ Herald. Also “Consultation unnecessary as tino rangatiratanga ensign is easily the best… I’d ditch the tired old colonial relic of a national flag we currently use and hijack the Maori flag as its replacement.” by Brian Rudman, ‘National Affairs’ article, same paper. Further still, some people in the papers have been arguing for the ‘United Tribes’(‘Hakituatahi o Aotearoa’ or ‘Independence’) flag to fly instead.

The point I don’t see being discussed yet is what does it mean to fly the tino rangatiratanga flag especially somewhere like on parliament buildings. Can it replace the nationalist New Zealand flag we know all too well or can it even fly beside it? Same again for the United Tribes flag. The answer for me then, lies more in the question: who are ‘we’?

‘United we stand, divided we fall’ is an interesting concept. It all depends on how big we need, or want, to be. The notion of New Zealand being a nation state is one most New Zealanders probably never even think of questioning. But are we. Are we a united nation state?

Before Nga Tiriti and the Treaty of Waitangi, which led to the formation of the New Zealand government, there were only a handful of British government bureaucrats that few respected. There was also The New Zealand Company following the East India Company’s land and labour exploits, several christian missionary envoys, several settler communities of varying races and levels of contact between them, and there were also what is thought to have been well over 500 major Maori communities with separate identities and varying established allegiances. In 1835 Maori in the north established New Zealand independence for all Maori just before the Waitangi treaties came but they had no agreement for this from other Maori across the motu. The treaties of Waitangi again were supposed to have expressed agreement by all Maori to accept a New Zealand government but most of those Maori signed a tiriti in Maori which ensured the continuation of their tino rangatiratanga (sovereignty) and even still about two thirds of Maori did not, were not allowed, or refused to sign. International law states that treaties in the indigenous language legally stand over treaties written in a foreign language, which would mean Maori still legally have their sovereignty, especially since the treaties were breached by the NZ government many times.

Which brings us back to the tino rangatiratanga flag. If we say this flag means all sorts of things such as the potential of new creations and the right to self-determination and, most importantly I think, sovereignty of Maori roopu over their lands, people and resources… then what does it mean if it replaces the national New Zealand flag or even flies beside it? I think we are dreaming if we think this will happen in the near future on this whenua. It would mean a complete u-turn on everything the New Zealand and British governments has been working towards since Captain Cook was sent out here, more than 239 years. Surely not. Unless… the meaning of the flag is changed of course.

Consultation is a word that those who have tried time and again to be heard by governments, now use with much cynicism. Do not be surprised if, like with the Seabed and Foreshore Act and with current water ownership legislation, we see the tino rangatiratanga flag appropriated out from beneath us. How to stop it? Don’t be deceived by cute and cuddly stories of the flag going to be used for ‘unity’ and ‘representing all peoples of this land’… and don’t wait to be ‘consulted’. Let’s tell the people what we think on our own terms. The tino rangatiratanga flag is important to Maori. It speaks a thousand words in one image and holds a huge history of struggle for our right to be. We shouldn’t continue to let the mad insatiable desire for power and wealth by a few at the top, turn the rest of us into slaves of a corporate nation state. We can exist again as smaller independent communities each with our own ways of doing things. Humans lived this way for thousands of years quite well it would seem. I’m not saying we need to go back to living in caves but with climate change already happening and capitalism beginning to show it’s destructive impossible need to perpetually grow, we need to start finding new ways of living. Sustainable ways based in self-sufficient, self-determined communities with good relationships with their neighbours and surroundings. Let’s create and build on different ways of working together and making decisions that concern many people so that we all get a say, finally, on what kind of world we each want to live in.

Obviously, rushing this will not help but waiting too long won’t either. We need to speak up to save our flag and everything it stands for from further colonial appropriation. E tu o matou reo e nga iwi. Mo nga uri. Mo te waonui o Tane, o Tangaroa, o Haumietiketike me nga taonga katoa. Mo nga tangata katoa hoki. Ka whawhai tonu matou… ake, ake, ake.


Re: On the meaning of the tino rangatiratanga flag.

'The answer for me then, lies more in the question: who are ‘we’?'

Good question. I think it'd be a good idea to advocate flying two flags:


Re: On the meaning of the tino rangatiratanga flag.

Now heres a flag that needs to fly over the bridge

Re: On the meaning of the tino rangatiratanga flag.

Kia Ora Em

I tautoko and agree with everything you say, after seeing the state's continual attempts to undermine our movements for Sovereignty & Self Determination. and yes Em I too am fearful that the gubbament will use this to co opt our Tino flag, but also to extinguish our movement for self determination for good.

Nga Mihi

Re: On the meaning of the tino rangatiratanga flag.

"but also to extinguish our movement for self determination for good. "

The Maori Party have already done that. Or trying hard to do it.

Thanks for the article Emily. Not sure I agree 100% with everything but it raises the debate levels so thanks for that.

We have known from many years of trying that governments never bring about long lasting changes. Community/whanau do that.

Working class politics works better that way. Around the kitchen table, on the marae.

aroha ki a taatou katoa

Re: Re: On the meaning of the tino rangatiratanga flag.

"Community/whanau do that."
Tautoko that. Out of curiosity, who wrote the comment above?

Re: On the meaning of the tino rangatiratanga flag.

There needs to be more thought about who uses this flag and when. The capitalists will appropriate anything, and willingly sell it back to you (providing you can stomach the large side order of injustice that goes with it) but thoughtless, well-meaning idiots will destroy all the meaning it has as well.

Pakeha need to seriously consider the relationship they have with Maori before they appropriate their symbols.


Sam Buchanan

Re: On the meaning of the tino rangatiratanga flag.

I am a person who prefers to remain anonymous sorry Emily. We have never meet.

Best to keep things this way.

And Sam.
Bit late. Maori party already sold maori out. Didn't even take the highest bid. All it took was a little slice of power to corrupt them. Very surprised at Pita seling out but not Tariana.

Maori need to get back on the streets and look for their own solutions not ones governments hang in front of their noses as some sort of thank you for the ability to kick poor people in the arse once again.

This discussion about a flag seems a little silly when you consider what this national government is going to do to low income maori and tauiwi accrosss the motu. Should that not be the discussion? I think Key is making you all look the other way while he fucks the low income over. Watch your backs whanau.

I am looking forward to helping my whanau learn why the Maori party sold them out and to help them learn about how to hit back. Just proves once again what voting delivers. NOTHING.

Re: Re: On the meaning of the tino rangatiratanga flag.

Nice. I agree. The new Bail Act changes are another issue that was neatly slipped under the Xmas madness period, which will see way more Maori getting locked up in the near future. And the poor. And those who resist oppression... We've got what, 4 new prisons being constructed?

I hope people are also planning to try and stop the 90 Day Bill this coming February 28th.

Re: On the meaning of the tino rangatiratanga flag.

The meaning of any communication is the response it gets. Period.

So there are as many meanings as there are people, which gets John Key off the hook very neatly.

Re: On the meaning of the tino rangatiratanga flag.

Ngaa mihi mahana ki a koutou katoa

Stoping things is a great idea but don't we need to build group, relationships,whanau first? Without that work when the shit hits the fan how will we manage to stick together? To know each others truths? To trust each other while the lies get thrown around like they have been in some places accross te motu in anarchist circles.

Building community/whanau is the msot important thing we can/will do. Already the middle class bunnys think they know us well. But they know bugger all about our dreams and hopes. I look forward to building whanau this year and learning stuff about me and you. See you there maybe.

As for my whanaungatanga with Maori. Awesome. Look forward to knowing you much more and helping other tauiwi come to that as well.


Re: Re: On the meaning of the tino rangatiratanga flag.

Still in denial? It's a real shame because so much of what you say at times is right on.

If your serious about "building group,relationships, whanau...", then perhaps admitting that you make mistakes and are prepared to enter into a conflict resolution process and listen to peoples greviences openly and honestly, would be a first step.

I really hope you can because if we always just walk away when we have conflict instead of dealing with it, we will always be devided.

Re: Re: Re: On the meaning of the tino rangatiratanga flag.

that's to the above poster, not Em.

Re: Re: Re: On the meaning of the tino rangatiratanga flag.

that was to the above poster, not Em.

Re: Re: On the meaning of the tino rangatiratanga flag.

I doubt that Em would want to meet *you*, because you are a middle aged pakiha male that always has to speak loudest and longest at meetings LOL LOL LOL

Re: On the meaning of the tino rangatiratanga flag.

The Confederation flag stood for a recognised state. No way will the state agree to flying this. The Tino flag is meaningless symbolism wide enough to satisfy everyone. At the time of the Treaty it meant the rule of the rangatiras, which mean Maori society as a whole. Today it can mean the Maori Party, a few tribal capitalists, nothing or everything. Flags are fatal.

Re: Re: On the meaning of the tino rangatiratanga flag.

Kao the Tino Flag symbolises self determination for all Maori not just some, and it was made by and for Maori.

Re: On the meaning of the tino rangatiratanga flag.

I Tautoko this korero Whole Heartedly, and if you could put this issue into a nut shell, this is how I'd choose to Articulate it!

He mihi mutunga kore!

Ropata Paora!

Re: On the meaning of the tino rangatiratanga flag.

What is the history of the flag?