Pita Sharples: A te reo strategy for, by and of the people

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The Kohanga initiative was organic and it allowed each whanau and each community to do it their way and in their dialects. Photo / Dean Purcell
The Kohanga initiative was organic and it allowed each whanau and each community to do it their way and in their dialects. Photo / Dean Purcell

I remember hearing one day when I was a kid that my mother and Aunty Grace got into a fight over a good-looking Maori boy when they were kids.

At school they were only allowed to speak English and found it difficult to trade respectable insults. So they jumped the school fence, along with the rest of the school as it happens, and had a showdown in te reo Maori that is now a part of national folklaw in Takapau.

I later asked my mother who won. No response. I was sent to my room.

This was the reality for my mother's generation. Maori language was banned at school and she was physically hit by her teachers for speaking it. Her generation were actively taught that Maori was a language of the past. The impact of such a generational campaign has been devastating for our culture and our language.

I was the product of these times. I grew up not knowing how to speak Maori.

It was not until I got to Te Aute College in Hawkes Bay that I realised through embarrassment and pride how important it was to know my language in order to participate fully and lead in Maori life.

I am a speaker of te reo Maori today, but like many speakers of my generation I had to reclaim it for myself. My peers and I were at the forefront of language revitalisation movements. Many of us were second language learners and many could not speak Maori at all. But we all knew that our language mattered.

The most significant event for revitalising our language was a summit called Te Hui Whakatauira held at Parliament in 1980. It brought together iwi leaders and Maori experts where the idea of language nests or kohanga reo was first conceived. Each of us took it back to our regions and what happened was truly powerful.

Our elders, our iwi leaders, the guardians of our knowledge, empowered us and in turn we empowered them, by listening and learning. Kohanga popped up all over the place and the momentum to save our reo began to grow.

This initiative was organic. It allowed each whanau and each community to do it their way and in their dialects. This also led to the reformation of our tribal structures. It strengthened the leadership and rangatiratanga in our regions. For the first time, after colonisation, our people were being drawn back to working in a whanau, hapu, and iwi way of life.

These simple principles have formed the basis of the new Maori language strategy which I announced earlier this month. The strategy is transformative and enabling. It restores to Maori their role to lead the language revolution that is required for the survival of te reo Maori. Until now the Maori language entities have been governed by Crown ministers. This will now change.

The new strategy takes the spirit of Te Hui Whakatauira and frames it in a model that is proposed as Te Matawai: iwi/hapu and te reo Maori practitioners working in partnership to govern these entities. It also empowers these entities with stronger policy and evaluation roles and improves the legal status of te reo Maori.

Some have argued that iwi do not deserve to have such a responsibility, they have very little experience in Maori language programmes. Yet our iwi, our hapu, exercised rangatiratanga over our language prior to colonisation. Iwi are rapidly rebuilding and we should not penalise them for not rebuilding fast enough in the language sector.

If language in the homes and the development of our dialects are the central elements to inter-generational growth then the gravity of power needs to be rebalanced in favour of iwi/Maori.

The New Zealand Maori Council argues that I did not consult Maori despite their members attending public consultation meetings and providing a written submission. The council also argues that I am required to consult them under statute. This is not the case. And further it argues that I undermined their Waitangi Tribunal claim. Not the case either. The council filed a claim to prevent me from introducing legislation into Parliament. The tribunal declined to convene on this matter.

In the spirit of Te Hui Whakatauira I am proud to shift the debate from being between the Crown and Maori to one about which Maori should be responsible for the strategy.

This week I will carry out the first reading of the new Maori Language Bill 2014 in Parliament. It supports the view of all the Maori/iwi that participated in the independent review. We propose rangatiratanga. We propose Te Matawai.

Dr Sharples is the Maori Affairs Minister.

Maori translation

I taku taiohinga, ka rongo korero au mo te whawhai a toku Mama raua ko toku Whaea-Keke Grace, i a raua e tamariki ana, mo tetahi tama purotu te take. I te kura raua, a, kaore i whakaaetia te korero Maori. Na kona i raru ai ta raua kohetehete ki a raua ano. Ka peke raua i te taiapa o te kura, me te rahinga o nga tamariki o te kura hoki, ki waho ata karawhiu ai i a raua ano ki te reo Maori. Kei te hau tonu te rongo mo tenei whawhai ki Takapau. I patai au ki toku Mama, ko wai i toa? Kaore he whakautu, engari ka tonoa ketia au ki taku ruma.

Koira te ahua o te ao mo te reanga o toku mama. Kaore i whakaaetia te reo Maori ki te kura, a, i patua ia e ona kura mahita mo te korero Maori te take. I whakaakona tona reanga, he reo onamata te reo Maori. Kua kaha, kua roa hoki te pa kino mai o tenei karawhiu ki to taua ahurea me to taua reo.

I whanau mai au i era tau. I tipu ake au me te kore mohio ki te korero Maori. No taku taenga rawa ki Te Aute, katahi au ka marama ki te wahi nui ki te reo Maori e whai wahi ai au ki te ao Maori. Me te whakama ano hoki.

Kei te korero Maori au i tenei wa. Naku ano toku reo i tiki mai, me te tokomaha o toku reanga. Ko matau tera i arahi i nga mahi tuatahi ki te whakarauora i te reo. Ko te nuinga o matau, i ako i te reo Maori hei reo tuarua, a, ko etahi kaore i paku mohio ki te korero Maori. Engari, ko matau katoa tera i mohio he mea tino whakahirahira te reo.

Ko te tino kaupapa mo te whakaora i to tatau reo, ko te Hui Whakatauira i tu ki te Whare Paremata i te tau 1980. Ka ikapahi mai nga rangatira o nga iwi, nga matanga reo Maori hoki, a, ka whanau mai ko te Kohanga Reo. Ka taki kawea te kaupapa nei e matau ki o matau rohe, a, he miharo te hua.

I tautokohia matau e o matau kaumatua, e o matau rangatira, a, na matau ano ratau i tautoko ma te whakarongo, ma te ako hoki i a ratau i tohutohu mai ai. Ka taki puta mai nga Kohanga Reo, a, ka timata nga mahi ki te whakaora i te reo.

He mea tipu noa tenei kaupapa. I ia whanau, i ia hapori te tikanga mo ratau me o ratau reo motuhake. He ahuatanga tenei i awhina i nga mahi ki te whakatutu runanga mo o tatau iwi. He ahuatanga tenei i whakapakari i to matau rangatiratanga ki roto i o matau rohe.

Ko te wa tuatahi tenei, no muri i te taenga mai o tauiwi, i hoki hoki ai te iwi Maori ki nga ahuatanga o te noho a-whanau, a-hapu, a-iwi. Kua noho enei matapono hei tuapapa mo te Rautaki Reo Maori hou i whakapuakina i te timatanga o tenei marama. He rautaki tenei hei whakaoho, hei whakamana i te iwi. Ka whakahokia ki nga iwi me Ngai Maori te rangatiratanga mo te reo Maori me nga mahi hei whakaora i a ia. Tae noa ki tenei wa, i noho te mana whakahaere mo nga Tari Reo Maori ki nga ringaringa o nga Minita o te Karauna. Kua mutu tera, e ara mai ana he kaupapa hou.

Kua whakatinanahia te wairua o Te Hui Whakatauira ki tenei kaupapa e kiia nei, ko Te Matawai. Ka riro ma nga iwi me nga matanga reo Maori e whakahaere i nga Tari Reo Maori. Ka whaimana hoki enei Tari ki te koke kaupapa, ki te ata arohaehae hoki i nga take o te wa, ko te mutunga iho, ka whakanuia hoki te reo Maori, a ture nei.

Tera etahi e ki ana, kaore nga iwi e rite ana mo tenei kawenga nui, kaore o ratau wheako whakahaere hotaka reo Maori. Heoi ano, no mai ra ano, no mua tonu i te taenga mai o tauiwi, ko te rangatiratanga o te reo Maori i noho ki nga iwi me nga hapu. Kei te whakapakari nga iwi i a ratau ano. Kaua tatau e tata i a ratau mo te poturi o te aro ki te reo.

Mehemea e ki nei tatau, kei te kainga te oranga o te reo Maori, kei nga rohe te oranga o nga reo-a-iwi, me whakahokia te mana ki nga iwi me Ngai Maori.

E ai ki Te Kaunihera Maori, kaore au i korero ki a ratau mo tenei kaupapa, ahakoa taetae mai ai a ratau mema ki nga hui mo te Rautaki Reo Maori me te tuku mai i tetahi tapaetanga korero mo te Rautaki. Kei te ki ano Te Kaunihera, me ata matapaki au ki a ratau ki raro i ta ratau ture. Kaore i te tika. Kei te ki ratau, i whakararu au i ta ratau kereme ki te Taraipiunara o Waitangi. Kei te he hoki tera. I tukuna ta ratau kereme ki te aukati i taku aheinga ki te tuku i te Pire ki te Paremata. Kaore te Taraipiunara i whakaae ki ta ratau i tono ai.

I runga i te wairua o Te Hui Whakatauira, e whakahihi ana au kua huri te aro i te patai mo te ahua o te noho tahi a te Karauna me Ngai Maori ki te patai ko wai ma nga Maori ka riro ma ratau e arahi te Rautaki Reo Maori. Hei tenei wiki, ka panuitia tuatahitia te Pire mo te Reo Maori ki te Whare Paremata. Ka whakatinana tenei pire i nga tohutohu a nga iwi me Ngai Maori katoa i whai wahi mai ki nga hui matapaki mo te Rautaki Reo Maori. Ko ta matou e marohi nei, ko te rangatiratanga o te reo Maori, ko Te Matawai ano hoki.

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