Making Te Reo Māori positive, relavant, and inspiring is the theme of Māori language week this year which included the first ever Māori language parade in Wellington.
A lively crowd of young and old, Māori and non-Māori, and about 4000 of them marched proudly along the capital’s Lambton Quay to Te Papa museum singing waiata, holding signs and waving Tino Rangatiratanga flags to celebrate Māori Language Week 2016.
The march was symbolic of the long and arduous journey taken to ensure the survival of New Zealand’s indigenous language.
Although that was the philosophy behind the hīkoi, taking te reo Māori to the streets and making it visible in places and spaces where it isn’t, was the aim of the event the Māori Language Commission chief executive Ngahiwi Apanui said.
“Koia nā te hiahia o Te Taura Whiri i te Reo kia aro mai a Aotearoa katoa, kia kōrero mai a Aotearoa katoa i tō tāua nei reo ātaahua,” hei tāna.
(“That's the aim of the Māori Language Commission is that everyone in New Zealand will be drawn to speak our beautiful language,” he said.)
And the Commission’s Chief Executive has a challenge for other cities to celebrate Māori language week.
“Ka mutu pea te ātaahua o te kaupapa nei, te tini me te mano o ngā tamariki o ngā tāngata kua tae mai. Ko taku hiahia, ko taku wero ki ngā tāone nui katoa o Aotearoa, a tērā tau me whakahaere koutou ā koutou hīkoi whakanui i te reo Māori ka tika kia whānui te horapa o tō tātou reo ki ngā wāhi katoa.”
(“How beautiful this event is. Thousands of children have turned out. My wish, actually, my challenge to all cities in New Zealand to hold their own Māori Language Week parades so that the language becomes widespread throughout the land.”)
Although the Māori language has come along, it still has a long way to go.
Te Reo Māori is still in a perilous state even though it was made an official language in 1987.
Recent figures from Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori, the Māori Language Commission show that only 3.7% of all New Zealanders can hold a fluent conversation in Te Reo (96.3% of New Zealanders cannot speak Māori).
Within the Māori population only 18% of tāngata whenua can speak their native tongue (82% of Māori can’t speak their language).
And as far as non-Māori who can speak Te Reo goes, only 0.63% (that’s less than 1%) can speak Te Reo Māori (99.37% of non-Māori cannot speak Te Reo).
Māori Language Week ambassadors
Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori have signed up four ambassadors to help promote the language.
- Jenny-May Clarkson (ONE News sports presenter and ex-Silver Fern)
- Julian Dennison (child star actor from the movie Hunt for the Wilderpeople)
- Nehe Milner-Skudder (All Black)
- Andrew Mehrtens (former All Black legend)
Nehe Milner-Skudder (Ngāti Porou) told Te Karere that he hopes his enthusiasm to learn the language will rub off on other people who are willing to give it a go.
“I think, speaking from my own perspective, it's something that I want to get better at. So I think being part of today and the whole week, as you know reigniting that flame, that spark to be able to have that kōrero and get a lot better at my reo, is something, personally, I want to get better at.”
For 13-year-old Julian Dennison (Ngāti Haua) he said that his whānau is his inspiration for wanting to learn the language.
“I'm still learning it at the moment I'm not too fluent at it, I'm not great at it, but I love it because a lot of my family speak it and you know just having the opportunity to be able to learn it.”