Law Text Culture


In a recent article, historian Peter Gibbons suggested that ‘[p]erhaps historical writings dealing with cultural matters that do not take postcolonial perspectives and problematize the presence of Pakeha run the risk of being considered as parts of the colonizing process’ (2002: 15). While Gibbons’ attention was focused on the texts produced by Pakeha cultural nationalists (versifiers, ethnologists, botanists and the like), his argument is applicable to other kinds of texts, such as the published historical narratives produced by the Waitangi Tribunal. For the past quarter century, the modern New Zealand Treaty claims process has provided Maori with a forum for the recognition of and restitution for numerous historical injustices. The process has been successful for some, yet painstakingly slow for others. This present-minded exhumation of the past has also witnessed the emergence of a new form of public history and genre of history-writing — Tribunal history. Yet this type of history is distinguished from other forms of history-writing by its strong postcolonial tendencies and highly present-minded approach toward the past.