16 Oct 2019

Niue Language Week: 'Sharing stories about our homeland'

9:40 am on 16 October 2019

Niueans across New Zealand are celebrating their culture and language this week from 13 - 19 Oketopa.

Niueans celebrate their culture and language with songs and dances.

Niueans celebrate their culture and language with songs and dances. Photo: Ministry of Pacific Peoples

The theme is Tokiofa, Ofania, Mokoina e Vagahau Niue - Treasure, Love and Cherish the Niuean language.

Niue-born Wellington-based doctor Alvin Mitukulena said his language was not spoken widely compared to other Pacific languages.

But he said there had been an increasing number of young Niueans taking an interest in the language and culture.

"So, it's quite heartwarming to see that and I hope it just only gets stronger and stronger...

"It's a time of reflection, of coming together with the community with other Niuean people, and just sharing stories about our homeland, what we remember and what we can pass on to our young ones as well."

The Niuean language is similar to the Tongan and Samoan languages, Mr Mitukulena said.

He said Niue was earlier settled by the Tongans, Samoans and the Cook Islanders.

"The Cook Islanders came to the north with the Samoans and the Tongans came to the south of the island."

Niue is commonly referred to as "The Rock", which comes from the traditional name "Rock of Polynesia".

It's a self-governing state but New Zealand conducts most diplomatic relations on its behalf.

Mr Mitukulena grew up in Niue and came to New Zealand when he was 16 and can remember "quite a lot" about his childhood.

"I can remember going to the bush and plantation with my father clearing land, growing taro, going sea fishing and conversing in the language particularly in the village where I spend a number of years."

Dr Alvin Mitikulena.

Dr Alvin Mitikulena. Photo: Supplied

Niueans are citizens of New Zealand and there are more than 20,000 people of Niuean descent living in New Zealand.

Mr Mitukulena said the highlight this week would be the celebration of Aho Pulefakamotu or Constitution Day on Saturday.

"That's the day when Niue became a self-governing nation in 1974," he said.

"It's when we showcase a lot of our cultural activities, our dances. We feast and we gather as a community."

Mr Mitukulena urged young Niueans to ask their parents or grandparents to teach them the language because it was "dying".

Youth needed to take an interest and appreciate their language and culture: "Language is only one aspect of our culture. You don't have to speak the language to identify as a Niuean."

Minister for Pacific People's Aupito William Sio launched Niuean Language Week in Auckland during the weekend, saying it was an opportunity for the islanders to connect with their history and culture.

Minister for Pacific Peoples Aupito William Sio opens the Niuean Language Week.

Minister for Pacific Peoples Aupito William Sio opens the Niuean Language Week. Photo: Ministry of Pacific Peoples

For Pacific people, language could be a source of strength and could also help ground and give the islanders' confidence, he said.

"Our languages provide us with an immediate and intimate access to our identity and our story - and from this comes a clear sense of belonging.

"That's what the theme for Niue Language Week says to me."

Most of the people who could trace all, or part, of their ancestry back to Niue now lived in New Zealand.

"We should remember that when they, or their ancestors, left Niue to come to Aotearoa, they brought their language and the stories it holds with them," he said.

"We have a chance to pay tribute to these people and those who have continued to ensure this beautiful language has a home here Aotearoa."

Fagatohi -Envelope

Fakaalofa lahi atu- Hello

Fakaaue ha kua - Welcome

Fakaaue lahi - Thank you

Fiafiaaga - Celebration.

Hifi ulu- Hair Cutting

Magafoa - Family

Momoi - Money

Paleu - Lavalava

Ufi - Yams

Vagahau Niue - Niuean language