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This important book shows that the Waitangi Tribunal's rewriting of New Zealand's history is part of a much longer tradition. Belgrave explains how the tribunal is simply the most recent in a long series of commissions of inquiry aiming to deal with Māori claims once and for all.
Commissions of inquiry have been re-interpreting New Zealand's past since the 1840s and the last round of claim settlements was still continuing even after the establishment of the Waitangi Tribunal in 1975. Far from providing definitive interpretations of long standing grievances, Māori claims and the findings of successive inquiries have been continuously reinvented.
What is new is the attempt to reassess New Zealand's race relations past against interpretations of the Treaty of Waitangi that have themselves been radically revised over recent decades. Belgrave argues that inquires and settlements have always been important in dealing with conflict in the present, allowing adjustment to the changing relationship between Māori and the state and keeping alive Māori customary relationships.
The book examines the way successive inquiries have produced different explanations for key events in New Zealand history from the earliest inquiries to the evidence argued before the Waitangi Tribunal and its reports. Chapters explore they way that the meanings of the Treaty of Waitangi and 'claim settlements' have changed over time as well as showing how the Ngai Tahu, Taranaki, Muriwhenua and Chatham Island claims have been re-examined over successive commissions of inquiry.
Belgrave shows how the Waitangi Tribunal's own historical interpretations are heavily influenced by the weight of earlier investigations and its political and legal role as a commission of inquiry.