7 Sep 2023

Moriori call for official week to celebrate indigenous language

3:02 pm on 7 September 2023
Kopinga Marae on the Chatham Islands will host more than 100 people who have been evacuated.

Kopinga Marae on Rēkohu, Chatham Islands where Moriori were the original inhabitants. Photo: Hokotehi Moriori Trust

Moriori are calling for their own official week to celebrate its indigenous language in New Zealand to save it from extinction.

Moriori, who are the original inhabitants of Rēkohu, the Chatham Islands, want to revitalise their language, showcase traditions and debunk commonly held myths.

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Hokotehi Moriori Trustee Chas Taurima said they were in the process of rebuilding their native tongue.

"We are in a pretty dire situation but it is possible to bring it back, it is possible to have all of our children and all of our people speaking it a lot more commonly. And then we look to the examples of Māori and what they've been through in the last 30 years in rebuilding their language and we can see that for ourselves as well but we need efforts like this to keep it alive," Taurima said.

A petition launched last month so far has just over 2300 signatures in support.

THe Hokotehi Moriori Trust has written a letter to Labour Minister Willie Jackson asking for him to consider adopting a Moriori language week.

"I understand it's probably not the best time to be requesting things of the minister right before an election but we're going to try anyway and if it doesn't work we're going to keep trying, regardless of what governments are in, we're going to keep asking," Taurima said.

So far everyone he had spoken to was fully supportive of introducing Moriori language week, he said.

"We're acting with quite a bit of desperation here, we're sort of pleading with everyone, please don't forget us and please help us save our language and our culture," Taurima said.

Taurima said Moriori and Māori culture, traditions and world views are both very different.

The language also has a different alphabet to Māori and has similar pronunciation.

He estimates there are hundreds of people who identify as Moriori.

"There's those that identify and then those that are but because of the sort of complex issue that we've had, haven't had the opportunity to find that connection yet and we estimate there to be a thousand," Taurima said.

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