Teen tops at Maori speech competition

By Sonya Bateson

Te Arawa's latest national manu korero champion hails from a small, lakefront wharekura [school] where all the students speak te reo.

Te Kaiamo Okeroa Curtis-Smith, 13, from Te Wharekura o Ngati Rongomai at Lake Rotoiti, travelled to Nelson last week for the national Maori speech competition and has brought the Te Hononga Waka trophy back to his marae school for coming second in the Junior Maori section.

He spoke about how lucky he is to be Maori.

"I talked about who I am and where I am from, I talked about my whare and the Maori gods to explain how I am lucky to be Maori. It meant a lot going up for the first time for my school and standing for Te Arawa."

Te Kaiamo Okeroa was happy to be the first person from the wharekura to do so well at a national competition.

"I was the first person to speak in the morning. I didn't think I would get a trophy, the people I watched after me were pretty good so I didn't know if I would get anywhere. It was mean and awesome coming somewhere the first time we went up for manu korero."

Te Kaiamo Okeroa was selected for the national competition after being judged the overall Junior Maori winner at the regional Te Arawa Manu Korero competition in term two. He spent nine weeks practising for the competition.

Contestants from Maori language and English speaking schools entered the contest and were given a list of topics to choose from, with Te Kaiamo Okeroa choosing "ka noho au i te poho o toku whare ka whakaro noa", a topic his father translated as "here I am, sitting in my house, thinking".

Te Wharekura o Ngati Rongomai principal Tukiterangi Curtis, who is also Te Kaiamo Okeroa's father, said he and the rest of their family were very proud of his son.

"We are obviously very proud, our whole little school, all the families involved in the school and our tribe Ngati Rongomai are very proud of his achievement - we are humbled and honoured."

Mr Curtis said it was exciting for the school. "We had our iwi backing us from all corners and would like to extend a huge thank you to our land trusts that funded and contributed towards our journey to get there. It was a huge cost to all the children who represented Te Arawa at Nelson."

- Rotorua Daily Post

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