Guest Editorial: Don't Just Learn Māori this Week, Learn It Every Week.

Guest Editorial: Don't Just Learn Māori this Week, Learn It Every Week.

Kia ora e te whānau! (Hey fam)

It's your one and only Tumuakz or Tumuaki, not to be confused with Tumauki (iykyk) of Te Roopū Māori.

It's that one week of the year people seem to remember te reo Māori is a national language. You'll find Māori language activists reminding everyone that te reo deserves more than just a week of national acknowledgement. We cringe as businesses fall over themselves trying to out 'te reo Māori' each other and then the week after forget it ever happened.

Yes, it is Te Wiki o te Reo Māori. The government created this initiative in 1975 to encourage New Zealanders to promote the use of the language. So essentially this week is about you. We need you to open your minds, ears and eyes to te reo Māori and how important it is to us.

I never spoke ANY Māori when I first came to uni despite it being my first language. I was afraid my Pākehā peers - probably you reading this - would judge and stereotype me. But overtime I met Pākehā who would say 'Kia ora' and 'Tēnā koe' to not just me but to anybody. I felt so embarrassed that I thought I needed to hide my identity, but hearing Māori words from my Pākehā peers gave me that extra confidence to be unapologetically Māori on a campus that screams colonial settlement.

Te reo Māori is the heart of our culture and identity as indigenous peoples of Aotearoa. Without it we wouldn't have our place names that describe the feats of our ancestors, pūrākau (stories) and mōteatea (chants) that have recorded our history for thousands of years, whakataukī (proverbs) that teach us lessons and show our in-depth knowledge of science and the natural world, haka to rouse our people who have faced great adversity, and waiata and lullabies to sing our tamariki to sleep. All of this is under threat.

Māori language week isn't about me, Aunty Pearl at the Māori Centre, my little brother at his Kura Kaupapa Māori or any other te reo speaker across the world. It is about our taonga (treasure) and about each of us making an effort to learn more about it, use it, try to pronounce it correctly, and keep our language from dying.

This week, don't just catch a glimpse of te ao Māori (the Māori world) through the window and keep walking once the week’s over. Use this week to get your foot in the door, and next week and the week after keep learning and be a part of the change we need in this country.

#TheyAreUs but #YouAreUs too.

This article first appeared in Issue 22, 2019.
Posted 10:22pm Thursday 5th September 2019 by Taylor Terekia.