The Treaty of Waitangi in schools today – Professor Piri Sciascia
The underlying theme in Professor Sciascia’s presentation is that taking a Treaty of Waitangi approach to learning is an important part of growing our sense of nationhood. He says the teaching of Māori history is a way for young people to learn about themselves and others. He also describes how this helps us develop as a bicultural nation. The teaching of Māori history from a Māori viewpoint is an important aspect of the exercise of tino rangatiratanga as agreed in Article Two of the Treaty.
Professor Sciascia describes the traditional English approach to history as being more linear and dominated by the knowledge of facts and a single truth. By comparison, Māori history is more reflective, may contain several viewpoints and have no single version of the truth. It encourages questioning of who is telling the story and who is the intended audience. Māori history presents a less certain world. He sees this as a valuable attribute of Māori knowledge. He describes Māori history as strongly place-based and shows how the events associated with particular pieces of land are central to a Māori view of the world.
Professor Sciascia cautions that there is still much to be done in collecting and telling of Māori history. He stresses the importance of stories being founded in te reo to preserve the full flavour and meaning, as that was the language of the ancestors.
He sees the teaching of Māori history as an “awesome opportunity” for students to learn about events and people in their local area. This strengthens the students’ knowing of themselves and gives life to the Treaty of Waitangi in schools.