Dr John Robinson is far from the only academic to voice alarm at the Treaty brownwashing scam.
This from the Herald archives about historian Dr Giselle Byrnes’ experience with the Waitangi Tribunal.
(Note: the paragraphs below are cherry-picked for easy digestion, not all consecutive.)
The tribunal – one of New Zealand’s more controversial institutions – has become a nursery for the rewriting of New Zealand’s history.
It seems a laudable enterprise. But questions are emerging about the academic validity of the history the tribunal is producing.
In a new book, The Waitangi Tribunal and New Zealand History, Victoria University historian Dr Giselle Byrnes lays damning charges against the tribunal, describing its attempts to write history as a “noble, but ultimately flawed experiment”.
The tribunal, she says, is not writing “objective history”. Rather, the reports it produces are deeply political and overwhelmingly focused on the present. It commits the ultimate faux pas of judging the past by the standards of the present.
Tribunal history also has a strong Maori bias, Dr Byrnes says. Maori characters and stories are given much more emphasis and weight than Pakeha characters and stories. “The reports increasingly champion or advocate the Maori cause.”
This is not the first time an historian has questioned the academic integrity of the history produced by the Waitangi Tribunal. Other historians – including Keith Sorrenson, Michael Belgrave and Bill Oliver – have raised similar concerns.
Other academics are also concerned, but reluctant to say anything publicly, Dr Byrnes says.
“I know that many historians have felt some kind of disquiet about the sort of history the tribunal has been producing over the past few years. They haven’t spoken out about it because most historians have liberal political leanings and they don’t want to be seen as undermining or criticising the whole process.”
“This is an area of energy and activity that is exposing a huge amount about our history. We need to pay it serious attention because the tribunal is publishing these historical narratives and people are buying these books thinking they are truthful accounts.”
Dr Byrnes … believes the tribunal should make overtly clear its inherent bias, otherwise there is a danger that lay people reading tribunal reports will be misled.
“If you don’t read the reports alongside the legislation it does look like it’s very biased history.”
Her experience sounds eerily similar to that of sceptical climate scientists.
Now this was from 2004. But if you think the Treaty brownwashing process has become more balanced in recent years, stay tuned.
Thanks for this article to Ross Baker of the One New Zealand Foundation.