Waitangi Day: An Annual Enactment of the Treaty?

Patrick McAllister


New Zealand's national day, Waitangi Day, is a commemoration of the Treaty of Waitangi between Britain and Maori chiefs signed in 1840. The Day has long been marked by controversy and conflict between Maori and Pakeha citizens of the country. In this paper Waitangi Day is viewed as a 'cultural performance' and an analytical framework drawn from the anthropology of performance is applied. This allows for an exploration of the ways in which the events of the Day are intimately connected to the history of the Treaty, as well as to the ongoing flow of social and political life in New Zealand. Particularly relevant here are the contrasting views on the nature of the Treaty and the extent to which it has been honoured or not. The analytical lens of the anthropology of performance, when applied to empirical data on how the Treaty is commemorated annually at Waitangi, enables one to conclude that Waitangi Day should be viewed as an annual enactment of the Treaty rather than its commemoration.


Waitangi Day, performance anthropology

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.11157/sites-vol4iss2id78