If he says he's not indigenous how can we disagree with him?

By Peter Williams

Winston Peters just won himself at least a couple more percentage points in the election race after his speech in Nelson yesterday. The ultimate politician was prepared to say out loud what thousands, possibly hundreds of thousands have been saying — or at least thinking — for fifty years. Māori are not indigenous.

He is, by the traditional definition of the word, absolutely correct. Indigenous comes from the Latin word indigena, which means a local, native or aboriginal inhabitant.

The Oxford English Dictionary, to me the Holy Grail for word definitions, says that indigenous means “born or originating in a particular place.” The Cambridge Dictionary says indigenous “refers to, or is relating to, the people who originally lived in a place, rather than people who moved there from somewhere else.”

We all know that Māori did not originate in New Zealand. That is indisputable.

But some dictionary writers over the years have changed the meaning of the word.

The rather woke Merriam-Webster Dictionary describes indigenous people as “of or relating to the earliest known inhabitants of a place and especially of a place that was colonised by a now dominant group.”

The use of the word has become highly politicized because if we accept that Australian aboriginals are indigenous to that land, and that Chinese and Japanese and Indian ethnicities are indigenous to their lands, then Māori cannot by the same definition be called indigenous to these lands.

They were the original settlers, the original colonisers, if you like. The fact that there were no other inhabitants here before them is irrelevant in the context of this argument. The great Polynesian migration of the 13th century was a colonising expedition, making claim to land that no one else lived on.

Yes, many claim there is archaeological evidence to say there were other people here before Māori arrived but that’s never been properly or academically verified.

Therefore Winston Peters, he of the Scottish father and Māori mother, says that Māori come from Hawai-iki, apparently somewhere in Rarotonga, and “we are not from here.”

It’s a line that will appeal to many in this election campaign but it hasn’t taken long for hackles to rise. Stuff reported last night that their reporter had asked Winston Peters after his speech if “that view might be upsetting to some?”

What a strange question. Is Stuff now in the business of absorbing offence for people who disagree with a politician? Can’t we receive ideas without being upset? In the warped world of Stuff it would seem the answer is no.

Peters was on the case real fast referring to what he had said in his speech as “the truth.” And he continued “I am from that background, we know we’re not indigenous and we don’t believe in bulldust.”

Then he was asked about how his whānau would react to hearing his comments. Winston was in fine fettle. “They believe in truths, not myths.”

This was Peters at his bellicose and belligerent, populist best. The wet and the woke are horrified, including Christopher Luxon who has said he disagrees with Peters. Maybe when Luxon went to school he was good at economics and accounting but not so much at English vocabulary.

I have a suggestion for Mr Luxon. Just say Winston is right. You’ll be surprised at how positive that reaction will be.

Once again, Winston Peters has his finger on the political pulse like no one else. He would have gone to sleep a happy man last night. He’d upset the media and he’d been given even more campaign oxygen. That just means more votes for him. 

For more from Peter, listen to Pete's Ponderings on RCR.

Our Contributor

Peter Williams
Peter Williams scarcely needs an introduction. He is a veteran of New Zealand broadcasting with more than 40 years in the industry. Peter has worked for various media outlets, including TVNZ, Radio New Zealand & Sky Sport, and is considered one of New Zealand's most talented and experienced broadcasters. More recently Peter has made a return to speaking on the national stage to highlight issues that he sees as critical to the future success of New Zealand .

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