Ngā mihi nui ki a koutou katoa. Greetings to you all.
This week is Māori Language Week (between 9 and 15 September), and I couldn’t feel prouder to help celebrate this increasingly important occasion. What I appreciate about living in Aotearoa New Zealand is that there is a clear intention to revitalise the Māori language; how amazing to live in a country that has a beautifully unique language and culture that is like no other.
I distinctly remember learning Māori words and songs (waiata) as a youngster, when Matua Heke visited us weekly at St Joseph’s Primary School in Onehunga. Oma Rāpeti still sticks in my mind! To be honest I don’t recall the Māori lessons being offered in high school, but my appreciation for Māori grew when I studied New Zealand History in my senior years. I credit this subject for giving me a fair, and strong understanding of the complexities of Te Tiriti o Waitangi and how this impacts on the relationship between Māori and non-Māori. It staggers me to think how quick people are to make judgements regarding the Treaty; I wonder how different or evolved their views would be if their learnt more about it rather than subscribing to stereotypes.
At University there were few opportunities to learn more about Māori culture, and often this was integrated into my cross-cultural psychology and sociology classes. My main learnings came from working in the Public Sector, in particular at the Ministry of Economic Development and later at Careers New Zealand. Suddenly I went from working in very Pākehā oriented organisations, to those that embraced the tikanga and traditions relating to Māori. I was then privileged to work at Unitec where Te Ao Māori (the Māori world view) was a natural and fundamental part of everything we did. The beautiful Te Noho Kotahitanga Marae is situated in the middle of the campus and over the six years I worked at Unitec, I attended numerous hui (meetings), Põwhiri (welcome ceremonies), presentations and events. It truly is a special place steeped in tradition and heartfelt respect for anyone who enters the space.
When I was growing up, it was so common to pronounce Māori words in a very ‘Kiwi’ way (Onehunga, Mangere, and Otahuhu for starters). It was what everyone did. But now I realise I have a responsibility and duty to uphold this beautiful language by pronouncing the words correctly. Yes, sometimes I will get the sounds wrong, but I feel more confident and connected each time I say it right. I find that regularly reciting karakia and singing waiata helps with this process and it keeps it fresh in my mind. I can also recommend the Kupu app for discovering new words too: https://kupu.co.nz/
Be intentional. Māori play a significant role in the shaping the fabric of New Zealand society and we have much to learn through language. I for one am keen to continue on this enriching journey.
Check out the Te Wiki o te Reo Māori website to access some fantastic resources you can share with workmates, friends, family and on social media (below is a sample).