In response to the ACT Party’s proposed Treaty Principles Bill, Māori have galvanised around protecting the place of Te Tiriti o Waitangi as a foundational document of Aotearoa and the rights it guaranteed tangata whenua. 

In mass marches across the country, at Te Hui aa Motu, at Rātana and at Waitangi Māori have come together to defend Te Tiriti and what it means to them. 

The role of Te Tiriti in the future of Aotearoa is the focus of the next M9 speaker series, ‘Ka Tohe Au! Ka Tohe Au! I AM THE SOVEREIGN!’ on March 8.

Into its third year, this edition of speaker series features nine kaikōrero (speakers), including Hone Harawira (Ngāpuhi, Ngātiwai, Ngāti Hine, Ngāti Whātua), Tina Ngata (Ngāti Porou) and Eru Kapa-Kingi (Te Aupōuri, Ngāpuhi), whose careers and lives have been dedicated to advocating for the honouring Te Tiriti o Waitangi. 

M9 is curated by artist Ria Hall and for this event she has designed a line up of kaikōrero that will explore the impact of the Treaty’s breaches, its historical context and modern application and what sovereignty means for tangata whenua.  

“Te Tiriti o Waitangi is one of the founding documents of Aotearoa. It is also our most controversial, widely misinterpreted, misunderstood, and dishonoured agreement of the past 184 years,” says Ria.

Re: News spoke to Ria about the genesis of M9, how she curates the event and why this kaupapa is especially urgent. 

M9 has partnered with Re: News to take the kōrero beyond the event and content from the night will be available across Re: News social media channels and on TVNZ+ in April.

For tickets to ‘Ka Tohe Au! Ka Tohe Au! I AM THE SOVEREIGN!’ and to see the full in line up visit

What was the space that M9 was designed to fill? 

We wanted to really give more opportunity for Māori stories to be told across a wide spectrum of industries. 

I thought that would be a way to really get out some incredible stories, incredible gems, and lots of takeaways that our whānau who came to watch can go away with. So it was about the amplification of the Māori voice. 

And now it's kind of morphed into a whole other iteration of itself, which I totally appreciate and understand. Because as Māori we are inherently political and it will move with the politicisation of Aotearoa, and abroad, and so it should. 

So I think we are now at a real convergence point for M9.

What was your vision for the format of the event?

It's a hybrid of a TED Talk, a micro conference, a presentation, but in whichever format that the kaikōrero desires to express themselves. 

And so that could be through performance, it could be through song, it could be in conversation with our kaiwhakataki (host). 

It's a marae ātea space that's inherently at its core. It's an opportunity for people to stand in their own mana, in their specialisation, in something that they can speak confidently to because they are that kaupapa. 

They are chosen with precision, with purpose and with an intent. They all have something to say, they all have a different perspective. And I know that our whānau will walk away feeling empowered, they're gonna be adding to everyone's kete.

How do you curate the speakers?

I dream about the kind of kaupapa our kaikōrero are going to speak to. I really deep dive into who I feel will bring a depth and breadth of perspective, who can I get from all of these different perspectives and different demographics within te ao Māori that can speak confidently to this kaupapa. 

So it takes me quite some time to really curate and dig my feet into it. And I'm nervous about it. As an artist myself, it's like creating another artistic work, another album. 

I have to think really deeply about the order in which they present too, from start to finish in terms of how the arc is shaped. 

And again, I base it on my own experiences crafting a setlist, crafting an experience for the audience and understanding what the audience might want to hear, where the peaks and troughs might be, but every point of it is incredibly relevant. 

How do you choose the kaupapa of each event?

I do environmental scans in terms of what's happening politically, what's happening musically, what's happening artistically, what's the kōrero in the communities. 

So I'm always kind of at the coalface seeing where, and in which direction, we might be able to take the next M9. 

Last year, the arts played a major role, because arts are the ultimate version of activism for me. I feel like while we as a society internalise events, I think the artist is always at the forefront as to what's going on. 

I knew at the end of our last M9 in November last year that my next in line needed to be one based on Te Tiriti o Waitangi. 

And it just so happened that things started to get a little bit more ramped up in the lead up to this M9 with the series of activations across the motu. 

The Hui aa Motu called by Kiingi Tuuheitia in January, Rātana followed closely, and then of course Waitangi, so there have been many pou put in the ground. 

And I really do feel like M9 is another one of those pou. 

What do you hope people walk away from M9 feeling?

I always want people to walk away empowered. I want them to come in the doors with an open heart and an open mind and walk away mind-blown. 

What I really want is activation outside of the space. I want people to feel like they can contribute to Te Tiriti o Waitangi discussions in a way that is mana enhancing, in a way that draws people together. 

I really have a strong hope that it's not just our own people in the audience. I'd like to think that M9 now has enough teeth that Tangata Tiriti will come and support. 

It's about bringing people together to really galvanise a whakaaro, an understanding, and using it as a platform to further understand what Te Tiriti o Waitangi means. 

But also, it's not only for Māori. It was a covenant signed by two peoples. And so this is a tono for our partners to come on board too and hear the perspectives of the diminished voice in the partnership.

We have to have honest conversations. And if we want to do that, then the party which has had the majority voice, needs to take stock and listen to tangata whenua. 

How are you feeling as tangata whenua? 

I think that this is a real opportunity for te iwi Māori. We saw that at the Hui aa Motu. We saw that at Rātana. We saw that up at Waitangi. So we've got lots to be really energised about and I want te iwi Māori to keep the energised activity happening.

This is an opportunity for us. We are seeing it roll out in front of our eyes, and the walls of iwitanga are not necessarily coming down, but they're a lot more fluid.

Because Māori want to commune with Māori and have Māori conversations about the profound impacts the constant breaches of Te Tiriti o Waitangi have had on generations of our people. 

Do you see yourself as an activist?

Yes. It's about action. And about activating something that you are convicted by. I've always been this kind of human where social injustices, injustices against Māori and indigenous people across the world, have always had a profound impact on my life. 

And it's always really been, without even realising, my life's work. I look across my recordings over the last 14 years and every single album has been speaking to take muru raupatu, to take o te whenua, kotahitanga, all of those kaupapa that we as indigenous people speak to. 

For tickets to ‘Ka Tohe Au! Ka Tohe Au! I AM THE SOVEREIGN!’ on March 8 and to see the full in line up visit

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