On Sunday 29th January I was invited to the 2012 Waitangi Rua Rautau Lecture at the Victoria University of Wellington Te Herenga Waka Marae. There were a number of distinguished speakers including Sir Edward Taihakurei Durie, Sir Paul Callaghan, Ian MckInnon and Luamanuvao Winnie Laban. The theme of the addresses was “he maunga teitei: achieving our ambitions”
For those not from New Zealand I should explain some of the terms and background. New Zealand has a unique constitutional structure based on the Treaty of Waitangi, which created a partnership between the indigenous people, the Maori, and the British settlers, represented by the then Queen Victoria. This partnership is celebrated by a day of reconciliation and remembrance called Waitangi Day (on February 6), a public holiday. The lectures are held annually as a part of the celebration and return to the themes of the Treaty. Sir Edward Durie http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Durie is a most distinguished retired judge, a kaumatua of both his iwi (tribe) and more widely recognised, as man of deep understanding and humanity, both as a judge and a person. He introduced the speakers and talked about looking forward to the 200th anniversary of the signing of the treaty in 2040 and the need for his generation to teach the upcoming leaders about the meaning of the partnership created by the treaty. This goes well beyond the scope of lawyers and judges, to affecting all Maori and subsequent settlers and the relationship in all aspects of our lives.
Sir Paul Callaghan http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Callaghan is a very well known New Zealand scientist. His theme, commencing with an adept opening spoken in Maori, was to emphasise the need for all New Zealanders to lift their aims in education, to enable New Zealand to grow beyond exports of agricultural produce to a knowledge based economy. This, together with attention to the growing gap in income, are the issues which the Treaty partners need to address.
Winnie Laban, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winnie_Laban well known in New Zealand as a former Cabinet Minister, was the next speaker. She is a New Zealand woman of Samoan descent, and spoke of the need to recognise the Polynesian migrants to New Zealand as kindred of the Maori, who migrated to New Zealand from Polynesia around 1000 CE. She spoke of the support given to the 3 official languages, English, Maori and New Zealand Sign Language but that there is no such support for Samoan, the second most commonly spoken language in New Zealand (ahead of Maori). She emphaised the need to move beyond the blame culture to a recognition of cultural diversity, in which all of the different cultures in New Zealand can proudly be both New Zealanders but still be part of their own cultures.
Sir Edward Durie concluded by observing that the welcoming ceremony was an important part of this and any other meeting held at a Marae (Maori meeting house). The powhiri or welcoming ceremony has many purposes, including letting the manuhiri (visitors) being made to feel welcome, and giving them an opportunity to reply to the speeches and songs. This formal opening of communication means that the Marae can be used as place where people feel free to communicate. Of course if you do speak, then there is always a right of reply, which Sir Eddie commented demonstrates that on the Marae especially, Maori have a firm grasp of open democracy!
What we as internet users can add, is that a blog can work like a marae speech with open and vigorous debate where needed. And we can at our ICANN meetings welcome the many cultures around the world, recognising the core values of and ambitions of ICANN, but like the marae, opening what we do to any culture and language, and welcoming debate on all issues. The bottom up model can operate like the powhiri, by welcoming our supporters, giving speeches to welcome, and recognising them first as manuhiri (visitors) and then as colleagues and finally as friends.