New Zealand Maori tribe says it wants British pensions
WELLINGTON, New Zealand » An ancestor of the first indigenous Maori chief to sign a 1840 treaty with the British crown said Thursday he will lead a campaign for Maoris to claim retirement pensions from Britain.
David Rankin, a direct descendant of warrior chief Hone Heke and a leader of the Matarahurahu subtribe, said the claim would be made under Article 3 of the Treaty of Waitangi.
The article guarantees indigenous Maoris "the same rights and privileges as British subjects."
Signed by dozens of Maori chiefs in 1840, the treaty ceded sovereignty over New Zealand to Britain, ruled at the time by Queen Victoria.
In return for British protection, indigenous Maoris were granted the rights of British subjects and also retained control over their lands, forests, fisheries, culture, language and other "taunga" (treasures).
"I see this extending to other areas as well," Rankin said. "We may expand the claim to include British passports, unemployment benefits and other entitlements."
"It's not the (non-Maori) citizens of New Zealand who signed the treaty; it was Queen Victoria and the British Empire," he said.
"We're going to ask (current) Queen Elizabeth for an apology for attacking our people, and we will apologize for what our ancestors did to British troops," he added.
During the so-called Maori Land Wars of the 1860s and 1870s, thousands of Maori warriors, British troops and colonial settlers were killed or wounded as Maoris resisted settler efforts to buy or seize their lands.
Hone Heke, a feared warrior, was responsible for cutting down the British flagpole three times to protest actions by Britain's representatives in New Zealand that he said breached Maori rights.
Auckland University law professor David Williams, an expert on the Treaty of Waitangi, declined to comment on Matarahurahu's claims.
"All I can say is that various claims by a number of 'ngapuhi' (tribe members) about the meaning and intent of the treaty will be very much part of what the (Waitangi) tribunal will have to consider," he said.
The government-funded tribunal hears Maori grievances, rules on their claims and makes recommendations for redress to the government -- which can accept or ignore its recommendations.