Promises, promises: Te Tiriti and Te Whariki as ethical visions

Historian James Belich has written that stories of European imperialism are “dramatic and traumatic, etched deep into the psyches of both victors and victims” (Belich, 2009, p. 22). The juggernaut of colonization reached these remote Pacific islands quite late in comparison to many other parts of the globe. This timing is significant, because it meant that by the time the British seriously contemplated colonizing these islands, anti-slavery human rights discourses were beginning to change the way the colonizers could treat the colonized. Furthermore, Maori were proactively and astutely entrepreneurial in their relationships with settlers (King, 2003). This opened up trajectories of possibility that may not have been as apparent in previous colonization endeavors elsewhere.

The 1840 Tiriti o Waitangi/Treaty of Waitangi (Orange, 1987), and the 1996 early childhood curriculum, Te Whariki: He whariki matauranga mo nga mokopuna o Aotearoa (New Zealand Ministry of Education, 1996), are both documents that are symbolic of an ethical relationship between the Indigenous Maori and the non-Indigenous settler/Pakeha citizens of Aotearoa New Zealand. Both documents can be viewed as containing an ethical vision as a source of hope, the realization of which remains, in both contexts (national and ECCE), largely unrealized. Yet in many ways, the field of early childhood has been a site of endeavor toward realization of the ethical promise of recognition of the Indigenous people, their language, values, and ways of being, knowing, and doing.

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