February 5, 2008

What is Waitangi Day?

Re-using an old entry, I answer a question that people ask me in person or by email every year. Not the same people, mind you, because then they know ... The question arises from calendars that have international holidays noted on them, which show February 6 to be "Waitangi Day (NZ)."

Waitangi Day is New Zealand's national day. Now, here's the catch for American readers! Whereas in America, and [I think] most of the non-white Commonwealth, the national day is the day the country became independent of Britain , in Australia, Canada and New Zealand, the national day celebrates when the British formalised their status as colonizers. This says quite something about the political and social culture of those countries. [The Commonwealth: that's what the British Empire has become, a free Commonwealth of independent ex-colonies, and Britain]

Anyhow, Waitangi Day is always February 6. It's never Monday-ised, so when it falls on a weekend, sorry, no day off!

Waitangi is pronounced why-tungee.

It's also a place, and the Treaty House, outside of which the Treaty was signed is still there. It's in good shape.

The day remembers -- celebrates is probably the wrong word now -- the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, which gave the British "governorship" of New Zealand, but left the [indigenous] Maori population with sovereignty.

As you can guess, it's been a mess ever since trying to work out how you can divide governance and sovereignty! Indeed, there's a whole government tribunal that's devoted to doing just that. Understandably they cop it from both sides.

Your next opportunity to learn about strange Antipodean holidays will come on April 25 with ANZAC Day ...

Posted by eroberts at February 5, 2008 5:35 AM