It was yet another cold and grey day in Wellington the first time I’d ever heard of the Treaty. Actually, that’s an exaggeration. It was a cold and grey day the first time I ever realised the relevance of the Treaty. Until that day the Treaty was an abstract thing. A “something signed way back when”.

I was going through a stage in my life when I was soaking up information like a sponge. Which was strange in itself considering that my escalating to serious drug and alcohol habit was concurrently becoming all-consuming. Somehow I was managing though, and using the experiences to push my consciousness to new heights. I was taking all the lessons I’d learned at the feet of my older people, channelling them, and burning all the more brightly for it. But again, we’ll get to the hippies later in the piece.

My university experience mostly involved getting loaded, heading to campus, and moping about observing people’s behaviours, their interactions, their ways of being. I would attend lectures between bouts of snooping through the deepest recesses of the library looking for arcanery and mysteries. Old tomes written in the 1800s. Old discharged and ignored sciences. Alternative ways of looking at the world. Secrets hidden from the light; underground, musty and mostly meaningless.

Thing is, I knew that something had drawn me to where I was. At the time my entire knowledge of my family history, of me, extended only as far as my grandparents. But I was still drawn, inevitably, towards the South, the miserable weather and away from the Bay of Plenty.

The balancing act that was substance abuse was weighting heavily on me, but my natural inclination to curiosity kept up,  so hand in hand my knowledge and my dependency grew to new heights. They were dark days, the weight of the world sitting heavily upon skinny shoulders, and it often seemed that it was only good fortune, my constant companion, held back the fate being doled out to so many others.

It was the Quad outside the library on campus, and some amateur political rally was underway. Student politicians practising strutting and grooming one another for the day they ascend to office in a city council, or worse. The same damn exercise in mutual masturbation acted out on campuses across the nation, the world. It was the same characters I’d seen overseas (again, we’ll get to that), but a little “smaller”, and more like New Zealanders.

The candidates at the front were doing a lot of arm waving, a lot of pretending to state their own relevance to issues far larger than their ability to act or their capacity to reason, and a lot of shouting. I was rapidly becoming bored, and my mind was beginning to wander back along the path down to the flat, my fire, and my stash.

She spoke up from a crowd of people over the other side of the quad. It was though I’d walked all the way up the hill just to hear her voice. A young woman, not far from my age, dressed warmly but not wealthy, and surrounded by people she obviously knew well and trusted. She was clear, concise, and could obviously see through the posers below us blocking the doors to the library.

“But what about our Rights under the Treaty?”

No reasonable answer was forthcoming. A response I rapidly became used to.