Ata mārie! One day down trying to incorporate te reo Māori into each conversation and to be honest, it feels good.

I feared it was going to be feel a bit forced, token even, especially as a Pākehā.

I thought maybe I'd get some of those reactions Guyon Espiner gets to his Morning Report mihi. But no, it was beautiful.


Sadly there can be a bit of awkwardness and political baggage attached to Pākehā speaking te reo.

READ MORE: Michael Neilson: Learning te reo is a challenge worth taking

But as reflected in today's story on immigrant and former refugee learners – there shouldn't be.

Those who arrive here to make Aotearoa their new home often speak at least two languages (some as many as nine).

Many are also embracing te reo, without giving it a second's thought. They do it because it is the thing to do and opens matapihi (windows) into new cultures and worldviews.

The only thing holding Pākehā back from embracing te reo is, well, Pākehā.

Learning te reo as Pākehā is a humbling experience. You do have to let your guard down, step out of your comfort zone, check your privilege, and take it all on the chin.

I felt all that sitting in a reo class in Turanganui-ā-Kiwa (Gisborne). I was the minority.

I was surrounded by Māori learners, some who were physically forced to stop speaking their reo when they were young.


It was pretty emotional stuff, and I couldn't help but feel a sense of colonial guilt.

But all I got from my kaiako (teacher) and fellow tauira (students) was beautiful support.

Since then the times I have been on marae, in hui or wānanga, and done my pepeha, or even a short mihi, it has been more of the same amazing support.

Even yesterday, I only received positive reactions to dropping reo into conversations – from all sorts. It is a beautiful language, I think we can all admit.

Te reo is taonga, and its revitalisation is for Māori to lead, but it is the role of Pākehā to support.

We can't change the past, but we have a social responsibility to ensure the future is different.

And that begins by overcoming any awkwardness, any political baggage we feel. Anything holding us back is only in our heads.

Ngā mihi nui ki a koutou.