John Arnett, my great-great-grandfather, spoke at the Royal Commission on Middle Island Native Land Purchases in 1880. The government was looking into claims that promises that had been made to Ngāi Tahu (Māori) when they had sold their land years earlier had not been kept. The promises had included schools, good arable land and health care. John’s eloquent words spoke to the generational losses that would continue with his children and his children’s children.
I stitched part of his moving speech onto a copy of a precious photograph I have of him. I turned my hand to writing script which I haven’t used since school, as this was the kind of handwriting he would have used. John said he was no scholar at all due to the failure of the government to provide the promised education for Māori and mixed-race students. I was reminded of how lucky I have been.