But I’m Pakeha? Te Wiki o te Reo Maori If we’re not Don Brash, we likely have some degree of tact when the topic of te reo Māori arises. Some of us just know the basics: kia ora, ka pai, whānau, aroha; some can hold basic conversation, and others still are fluent. No matter how proficient our reo is, it’s important we get involved in te wiki o te reo Māori. If like me, you’re Pākehā, you may be unsure how the language is relevant to you personally, and you may even feel a bit outside of it all. Hopefully, I can help to unpack and answer that question for you.
What Kiwi kid doesn’t know ‘One Day a Taniwha’? The nostalgia is real. As a child, I loved singing waiata like Tōia Mai, Purea Nei and Paikea at school, and was a member of the kapa haka group. In year two, we learned the well-known karakia, Whakataka te Hau, reciting it at the beginning of the school day. I distinctly remember my year four teacher teaching us the correct pronunciation of a Māori place name: “It’s not Parra-parram, it’s Paraparaumu” and feeling perplexed: but that’s how Dad says it? Eight-year-old me learned something that day, but it still wasn’t until about two years ago that I actually started calling myself out and taking the time to give Māori names the proper pronunciation they deserve. In year four, I remember writing my pepeha for the first time – I think it’s awesome that the new cohorts of BSc students are now required to write and perform a basic mihi, and I think it should be more commonplace, both across other college departments and in general. This Māori world view of one’s own connection to whenua/land and whakapapa/genealogy is unparalleled in English and is truly invaluable. Given that Māori are the indigenous people of Aotearoa, it makes sense that kaitiakitanga (guardianship) of the land is at the centre, and I wish that we could all embrace and value this as a nation. Both my primary school’s principal and some of my primary teachers were Māori, and our school’s kaupapa was ‘Creating Thinkers, Celebrating Diversity’. I think that because of this, our school was staunchly bicultural and emphasised the importance of Māori culture. Upon reflection as a young adult, and through talking to others about their experiences of te reo Māori at primary school, I have realised that I have been really privileged to have had these kinds of opportunities as a kid. Additionally, I have learned that not all schools shared the same pride in and emphasis on te ao Māori, and I think that is a real shame. After all, te reo Māori is an official language of New Zealand: it is about time we treated it like one. It makes sense to teach it in schools, and I think it is a part of respecting tāngata whenua as our treaty partners.