On September 14, 1972, a coalition of Māori university students took a petition to Parliament seeking protection for the Māori language.
The Māori language day that was introduced that year subsequently became Māori language week – Te Wiki O Te Reo Māori - in 1975.
That year also saw the formation of the Waitangi Tribunal charged with hearing Māori grievances against Crown breaches of the Treaty.
Article two of the Treaty promises Crown protection of Māori taonga (treasures).
A claim to the Tribunal in 1984 argued that the Māori language was a taonga and that the Crown had failed in its promise to protect it.
That, in turn, led to the passing of the Māori Language Act and the formation of Te Taura Whiri – the Māori Language Commission, a move which along with the establishment of kohanga reo Māori language nests for pre-schoolers and kura kaupapa schools for older students brought a whole new impetus to the language and its current renaissance.
Next year will mark the 50th anniversary of that historic petition presentation and in the intervening years we have seen a remarkable revival of what was once thought to be the dying language of a dying people.
One of the driving forces behind that revival has been Te Wiki O Te Reo Māori which this year will run from September 14 to September 19.
My parents were of that generation of Māori children who were beaten for speaking Māori at school which was a cruel punishment given that they lived in an isolated rural community where Māori was the everyday language of interaction.
With that background, it was no wonder that my parents, both fluent Māori speakers, went out of their way to not speak Māori to me and encouraged me to learn English, the language of their oppression.
The culmination for me was a first in English in my 5th Form year at college and an abiding love for English literature which I have never lost.
I have this mental picture of my shy mother standing proudly at the back of the school assembly hall at prizegiving.
But what I did lose and which I now mourn in sad retrospect was the language that was my inheritance. I get by in my daily encounters with te ao Māori – the Māori world – but I often wish it were more than that.
I would not describe myself as fluent by a long chalk. But it is my issue and my job to do something about it. Attending te reo classes is possibly not an option.
In Tauranga for example – all classes are fully subscribed – mostly by Pākehā people.
As an avid listener of national radio, I have noted over the years the continued growth of te reo use by mainly Pākehā reporting and presenting staff.
It started as the thing to do during Te Wiki and then gradually overflowed into programmes such as Morning Report to the stage where it became, has become, standard fare.
A similar position has been reached with television and our news and current affairs programmes.
In fact, that new trend that I am noticing is that our broadcasters seem to be competing to "out te reo" each other. It is now an indispensable part of national radio and television.
My daughter, a fluent speaker returning home from years of living in Australia, noticed it immediately.
It is a long, long, way from 1984 when Dame Naida Glavish, then a telephone operator, was censured by her supervisor for greeting callers with "Kia ora!"
I am inordinately proud to see this development and the growing evolution of the Māori language into the national lingo.
Everyone knows "kia ora" and other greetings while words like kai, mahi, iwi, hapu, whānau and mokopuna also frequently occur in our interpersonal conversations.
And for me, that is so heartening to see. Māori culture and the vehicle for its transmission, Māori language, is what makes our country unique in the world.
It is not found anywhere else. And the special thing is that it is something that belongs to all of us. It is like the kiwi bird, unique.
Currently, I am engaged in a mostly social media debate about the word Aotearoa.
My view is that it is in the process of displacing "New Zealand" as the name for this country.
To me, it is just a natural evolution that like the welcome infiltration of te reo into our daily lives, is happening regardless.
Unlike other Māori words, I am yet to meet a person from this country who does not know what the word means.
And I look forward to the day when we officially become Aotearoa and end up being ahead of Australia in any list of countries.
I get hit with arguments like "our economy is built around the name New Zealand – nobody knows where Aotearoa is". Really? Didn't take Sri Lanka too long to get over formerly being Ceylon. And there are numerous other similar examples. God defend Aotearoa indeed.
Enjoy your Maori Language Week.
Buddy Mikaere is a historian, environmentalist, resource consents consultant and Tauranga Moana iwi representative with a wide variety of interests across the Mount Maunganui and Tauranga community