Kiwis have made history with over a million people coming together to celebrate te reo Māori together across the country - and around the world.

With the traditional marches for Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori/Māori Language Week cancelled due to Covid-19 concerns, Te Taura Whiri/Māori Language Commission called on everybody to join the moment, and share a kōrero online at 12pm.

Thousands of kura/schools, businesses and organisations across the motu got behind the kaupapa, with over a million people pledging to take part - including a network of 77 "virtual schools" that involved over 4000 tauira/students.

"This is the largest, single celebration of te reo Māori in history. We have never had this many people celebrating our language together at the same time," Māori Language Commissioner Professor Rawinia Higgins said.

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"We would like to pay tribute to those across Aotearoa and the world, our smallest towns to our largest cities, our elderly to our babies who joined us today."

Today marks 48 years since a small group of language champions presented a petition to Parliament from 30,000 New Zealanders asking the Government to teach Māori language in schools.

The 1972 petition sparked a turnaround for generations of Māori who were beaten in schools for speaking their language, and was the catalyst for that date becoming Māori Language Day – extended to Māori Language Week in 1975, an increase in Māori tuition across the country, and Māori becoming an official language in 1987.

By this afternoon, 1,023,751 people had recorded their Maōri Language Moment.

The one million target coincided with the Government strategy to have one million te reo Māori speakers in the country by 2040.

"To safeguard te reo we want one million Māori language speakers by 2040 but we want to start in 2020: even if only for a moment," Higgins said.

The commission will host a Zui Mano – a Zoom meeting with 1000 attendees – for its own Māori Language Moment.

One of the biggest digital gatherings involved about 4000 tamariki across 77 kura/schools, celebrating online together as part of the Virtual Learning Network (VLN), a collaborative schools initiative providing online learning opportunities.

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VLN ePrincipal Rachel Whalley said tauira/students from Whataroa School (Te Tai Poutini/West Coast), Pauatahanui School (Te Whanga-nui-a-tara), Ngamatapouri & Taoroa Schools (Manawatu/Whanganui), Piripiri School (Waikato) and The Gardens (Tāmaki-makau-rau) led and recorded karanga, karakia, kōrero and waiata for other kura from across Aotearoa.

"Schools have a commitment to honour te Tiriti o Waitangi, to support the needs of Māori learners and to value and sustain our indigenous language of Aotearoa New Zealand," Whalley said.

"Te reo is a taonga for us all and we need to provide opportunities for everyone to progress in their learning of Te reo Māori me ōna tikanga."

The Green Party and Māori Party today also unveiled their te reo Māori policies.

The Green Party is calling for te reo to be a core school subject up to year 10, and te reo courses to be included in the Targeted Training and Apprenticeships scheme to boost kaiako, teacher, numbers.

"If the Government is serious about its commitment to integrate te reo Māori into schools by 2025, it must make it a core curriculum subject, and properly resource it," co-leader Marama Davidson said.

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The Māori Party's te reo policy included changing New Zealand's name to Aotearoa and that all Pākeha place names, cities and towns will be replaced with their original Māori ingoa (name) by 2026.

The Māori Party also aims to establish a Māori Standards Authority which will have the legislative power to audit all public service departments against cultural competency standards.

The policy also guarantees that te reo Māori and Māori history will be made core curriculum subjects up to Year 10 at secondary schools and require all primary schools to incorporate te reo Māori into 25 per cent of their curriculum by 2026 and 50 per cent by 2030.

"It is unacceptable that only 20 per cent of our people can speak their own language and that only three per cent of the country can speak its official language," Māori Party candidate for Waiariki Rawiri Waititi said.

"We need to be doing more at a systemic level to protect and promote the reo of Aotearoa."

Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori 2020 runs from today to Sunday, September 20.

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