Zooming into a Kotare workshop on the legacy of Moana Jackson, in particular the Matike Mai proposal for constitutional change, and then catching the NZ On Air doco and a couple of conference presentations by this man of great mana, intelligence and integrity, made me ponder the sovereignty question.

In the Kotare workshop I argued that the Matike Mai proposal (a rangatira house, a kawanatanga house and a relationship space), resolves a structural  contradiction that for me, is already creating a resurgence of settler racism.  The contradiction involves a political representational structure based on birthright trying to co-exist with a representational structure based on one person one vote within a single chamber. We are already seeing this in the reaction against co-governance and there are issues for Māori reps of collaboration and reformism.

With the Matike Mai proposal both structures are seen as valid, but separate, and negotiation takes place from  worked through positions, in the same way that workplace collective agreement negotiations take place. In the latter case, both employees and employers have discussed what they want, from within their own structure and negotiation then takes place. The rules of the negotiation have been set and can evolve. The employers may well be thinking of profits and shareholders, the union will be representing a one person one vote constituency; but these representational interests and structures are the business of the particular side.

Behind this is the question of sovereignty. The sovereign (whether king, elected government or dictator) has the right to act as they wish within their nation, will require a bureaucracy to put decisions into practice and need sufficient charisma or apparatus of control to take the majority of subjects along with them. The tiriti promised continuing governance to the chiefs over their territories, but also brought in the overall sovereignty of the British crown for the combined territories regarded as a nation and the promise of citizenship rights of the nation for Māori. It was of course a dogs breakfast conceptually: is governance of a territory the same as sovereignty of a nation? How do the two concepts coexist?  How does tribal membership equate with citizenship of the nation? Behind it was the simplistic desire to control the sale of land and to control unruly British subjects. And then the establishing of settlements continued apace with a seemingly unlimited supply of migrants and the land wars led to confiscation of territory. This was followed in turn by the underhand imposing of privatisation of title which led to the near total imposition of settler sovereignty, bureaucracy and charisma and the disempowerment of Māori governance over a much diminished territory. We know the rest.

Now there is some restoration of territory to iwi (and business and capital and media must be seen as territory}, with some bureaucratic mechanisms in health and education and media under Māori control. The Makite Mai project imagines a reclaiming of Māori governance as a whole together with a bureaucracy and a sufficient level of charisma to have it accepted nationally as part of a shared sovereignty.

There are issues in this imagining. In which chamber do working and union issues sit? How are the high tech secondary health issues governed? What is the role of entrepreneurial global capitalism? Do iwi initiatives ever get listed on the stock exchange and therefore subject to takeovers?  There is already a narrative of primitive capital accumulation within Māoridom. Does the impulse toward co-governance continue within the kawanatanga sphere or will a process of separation be necessary? The relationships in te tiriti were under-defined, confused and in some ways a hopeful imagining and this sphere still seems very complex. There is a tendency for liberal Pākeha to have a religious faith with regard to this complexity. If we ‘pray’ sufficiently fervently and adopt the right language goodness should prevail.  

For me, there is a need to be hard headed and analytic, to stay alert to contradiction and to use the process to resolve contradiction.