• Kathryn Cammell

Reacting to the Past: Part Two


Student playing the Reacting to the Past game

This is part two of the ‘Reacting to the Past’ series, where students share their experiences playing a Te Tiriti o Waitangi/Treaty of Waitangi game in their ‘Foundation History’ course in semester one, 2019. For the first part of this series, please click here.


Yana David

The game was a really fun and interactive way to explore the treaty. The idea of everyone having their own character made it a lot more interesting to research the treaty, than it would have otherwise been if this was a simple research report. The way the game removed a formal aspect of the research made the entire process much more enjoyable. Taking on a character really made you think about the relationships, connections and motives a person had and was thinking about when making decisions, which is something that I think can be quite removed from history.


The relationship map was good in helping you find a starting point, but once you started researching what those relationships were really like, and ones that weren’t depicted in the relationship map, things started to get really interesting. The research questions also really helped with this as it made sure that you had an understanding of at least some of the relationships your character had and enabled you to possibly look deeper into the relationships not depicted on the map. Having a deeper understand of your character and their relationships made it so when playing the game you were less concentrated on who you’re character was/what they would do, and you could focus more on the connections you had and manipulating them to get your desired outcome. Having a true understanding of your character made alliances and backstabbing possible which is where the true fun of the game came from. Being able to negotiate and make alliances with other people within the game outside of the actual role play itself made it really fun as that meant when moving against other people you couldn’t be entirely sure on who their enemies and allies really were – much like real life. The victory objectives were good for this as it gave your character a direction and a goal to work towards rather than just aimlessly doing what you wanted.


The game could have been improved with better time keeping and if people did more research into their characters. On the second day especially the time keeping wasn’t done very well so some speeches were left right to the end when they should have been earlier in the session and I believe that some speeches were left out of the day entirely. When negotiations opened up there was a particular focus on land and not much else, I believe the game would have been better if there had been a way to ensure that all aspects of the treaty had been discussed, not just land. Unfortunately, there were some people who did not properly research their characters, work towards their victory objectives, and actively participate. This made it a little bit difficult to work with as not all aspects were at play – I believe this may be remedied a little by building a lot of hype around the game to help encourage participation, although I’m not sure what form that would take. The game could also be improved by having a deeper understand of what it was and what would happen once the role play started when leading to up with it. I felt the entire thing was clouded with confusion and uncertainties - which admittedly were cleared up in the first day of the role play – but it could have been a better experience if I had this understanding from the start.

Overall the game was a great experience and gave researching/learning about the treaty of Waitangi a fun and interesting twist. It could have been improved with more clarity surrounding the role play and with other people’s involvement.


David Katanic playing Bishop Pompallier

David Katanic

This role play served as a practical and fun way to immerse yourself in a character and their role in the Treaty of Waitangi. The goal of the exercise for many people, including myself, was to adjust the articles of the treaty. In order to reform the treaty however you were required to first learn the workings and wording of the existing treaty. I therefore walked away knowing a great deal about the treaty of Waitangi. I had no knowledge beforehand of details such as the glaring disparity between the English and Maori translations and the exercise illuminated this to me. From a broader perspective this made me think of the importance of accurate translations and how significant lapses, intentional or otherwise, can result in major repercussions. We are nearing two hundred years since the treaty was signed and the issues surrounding it have yet to be fully resolved. The unfairness of the treaty still remains a keystone issue in our internal politics.


The exercise made me learn about the Bishop Jean Baptiste Pompallier. This proved to be

very interesting as you got the perspective of the two major colonisers of the time; the United Kingdom and France. In an era that was becoming increasingly imperialistic the frantic rush between the two to exert sovereignty over New Zealand could almost foreshadow events such as the scramble for Africa in the later half of the century. To me it seems that both countries attempted to wrap the annexation in the most marketable package, with Britain being ultimately successful. Through Pompallier you also learn the inner workings of the Catholic faith and its approach to the evangelisation of New Zealand. The influence missionaries wielded in the treaty negotiations cannot be underestimated. Pompallier wielded great influence over his constituents and it seems he used it surprisingly moderately and fairly. He was seeking, if only publicly, to safeguard the continuity of his flock.


This is just a gleam of the sheer enormity of knowledge learned during this interactive exercise. In my opinion however the greatest boon of the exercise was not only what was learned but a general inspiration to learn more, to further what you have learned even after the role play has ended. Pompallier and his role have served as a foundation upon which I will further learn about the Treaty of Waitangi.


Student playing the Reacting to the Past game

As we can see, the students who participated in the Reacting to the Past game enjoyed the opportunity to learn about history in a new way. Through their assigned characters, they learnt about the importance of relationships and the difference that personality can make in how historical events turn out. While there were some challenges in terms of the logistics of the game and other students not engaging on the same level, overall the students came away from the game having learnt more about the signing of the Treaty than they did before.


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Kathryn Cammell is the co-founder of Tahuhu Kōrero and a Master of Arts student in History at the University of Auckland, studying New Zealand history. Thank you to Yana David and David Katanic who contributed to this post. All posts by contributing authors reflect their own thoughts, opinions and experiences, and do not necessarily represent the perspectives of the University of Auckland History Society.


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