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Getting your story right – working with your historian

By Peter Johnston, Tuesday, 16 August, 2011, ,

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Most groups need expert historical assistance in support of their Treaty claims, both before the Waitangi Tribunal and in direct negotiations with the Crown.

The Crown Forestry Rental Trust (“CFRT”) funds and manages most projects.  You need to be ready when they offer to consult on the research programme and topics, the historians who they think are best suited to each project, and the report as it is being written.

CFRT’s quality control should ensure the historian has:

  • Professional research qualifications;
  • Experience writing substantial research reports to a professional standard;
  • A track record in the relevant field and knowledge of the topic;
  • A proven ability in giving evidence before the Tribunal and coping with cross-examination; and
  • Rapport with clients (i.e. your group).

You need to ask, can they:

  • Tell your story fully and accurately?
  • Deal with the oral traditions of your people, where applicable?
  • Manage and absorb the complex documentary sources in archives and libraries?
  • Present your story well for the people and the Tribunal?
  • Operate within deadlines?
  • Consult with and receive information and feedback from claimants?
  • Remain impartial as an expert witness?

Your group then needs to:

  • Provide as much information and feedback as possible within the project’s parameters;
  • Designate a contact person or committee;
  • Ask for your lawyer’s assistance in ensuring research is relevant to your claim;
  • Keep to deadlines too;
  • Respect the historian’s professionalism and impartiality.

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