Analysis: 1News reporter Te Aniwa Hurihanganui was still a child when she and her whānau joined the Foreshore and Seabed hīkoi nearly 20 years ago. And she can sense that same collective energy forming once again.

I was eight years old when my parents pulled me and my siblings out of school for the day to join the Foreshore and Seabed hīkoi to parliament.

We had spent the previous night stuffing Tino Rangatiratanga flags into backpacks and painting signs on the shed floor, demanding politicians “honour the Treaty” - a document I would later learn can feel both powerful and fragile.

At first light, we marched. “Hīkoi, hīkoi!” we chanted. “Hīkoi ki paremata!”

As thousands surged through the capital, the same symbols of resistance we brought with us waved defiantly in every direction.

I had never seen so many Māori faces in one place - kuia and koroua, aunties and uncles, teenagers and kids younger than me sitting on their parents’ shoulders.

I was too young to truly understand what was happening and why, but the energy of that hīkoi was palpable. All around me, I saw people carrying the weight of an injustice too great not to fight and, at the time, walking alongside them felt like the single most important thing I might ever do.

I’ve since learnt more about why I didn’t go to school that day. How the then Labour Government was unwilling to accept that Māori may have been able to demonstrate customary ownership of the foreshore and seabed.

Before the courts could even consider that possibility, the Government passed the Foreshore and Seabed Act 2004, effectively removing any customary ownership rights Māori might have had, and claimed ownership for the Crown.

The Waitangi Tribunal, tasked with examining whether the legislation had breached the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi, was scathing in its findings.

Yes, the Act was clearly in breach, it found. But the Tribunal went beyond that. It said the policy also violated the wider norms of domestic and international law that underpin good governance in a democratic state.

A new generation of protesters

Nineteen years after the Foreshore and Seabed hīkoi, a new conversation about our constitutional framework has emerged.

There are fears the new government’s plans to look at redefining the Treaty principles will water down or erase what the Treaty’s Māori text promised - the fundamental right for Māori to maintain self determination, or tino rangatiratanga.

Exacerbating that concern are other policies that seek to roll back the use of te reo Māori in the public sector, withdraw New Zealand from the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, make it easier to overturn the establishment of Māori wards on local councils, and remove co-governance from the delivery of all public services.

The first waves of opposition have already taken place on the streets. Online and through social media, the conversation grows still.

Waikato Chair Tukoroirangi Morgan, a leader for one of the most powerful iwi in the country, has called the Government’s plans an “all-out attack” on the rights of tangata whenua.

But it’s ordinary people, less known in the public eye, who are echoing that sentiment on a scale I’ve not seen before.

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon has called the outpouring of criticism by Māori “pretty unfair”.

But it’s difficult to see how he could have expected Māori to respond in any other way. Did he really think Māori would read those policies and be left feeling hopeful? Or inspired? Or heard?

The children of the Foreshore and Seabed generation are now old enough to take up the mantle of protest like their parents once did. They now know what it takes to challenge and provoke and push back because their identities have been shaped by resistance.

Some have already said this is their Foreshore and Seabed moment. It’s a declaration the Government probably shouldn’t underestimate.

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