Am I telling lies?
At the Hokianga discussions of the treaty of Waitangi on 12 February 1840, Mohi Tawhai spoke to the assembled gathering of Europeans and Maori and said:
'Let the tongue of everyone be free to speak; but what of it. What will be the end? Our sayings will sink to the bottom like a stone, but your sayings will float light, like the wood of the whau tree, and always remain to be seen. Am I telling lies?'
The image was that of the net - a seine net that might be a thousand metres long, with whau-wood floats along its top edge and sinker stones woven into a seam along its base. Like the net of memory, the seine was not cast at random; and when it was hauled it was pulled in by the combined labour of many people.
In some ways Mohi Tawhai's metaphorical statement was prophetic. Maori commentaries and points of view have been forgotten when popular tradition and historians have cast their narrative nets. The tapu-laden talk of tribal elders has been concealed or is inaccessible, while stories based on European documents have 'floated light, like the wood of the whau tree, and always remain to be seen'.
Keywords: Maori, New Zealand (Aotearoa), Treaty of Waitangi, 1840 , 1840
Two Worlds - first meetings between Maori and Europeans 1642-1772, Anne Salmond, Penguin Books, p 11.
Author: Nettheim, Garth