14 Sep 2020

Kia ora e te motu: Ko Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori tēnei

1:56 pm on 14 September 2020

More than 700,000 people across the country will speak, sing or listen to te reo Māori at midday today as part of a Māori Language Week initiative, Te Wā Tuku Reo Māori.

Māori language week parade in Wellington

Parades such as the one these children in Wellington were part of last year are off the agenda in 2020 because of Covid-19. Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

Today is the beginning of the annual celebration of the Māori language, Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori, but due to Covid-19 restrictions there will be no parades this year.

Instead, there will be a Māori Language Moment - Te Wā Tuku Reo Māori - aiming to get one million people using or engaging with the Māori language at noon today.

Te Taura Whiri/Māori Language Commission chair Rawinia Higgins said it was exciting to see the high number of registrations.

"I'm just so excited about people taking the time out to put up their events, but also to just register themselves, their whānau, their workmates, to be apart of the moment ... and if we can capture that, and continue to support that it will help us reach our one million target by 2040."

Te Taura Whiri aims to have one million New Zealanders speaking basic te reo Māori by 2040.

For Te Wā Tuku Reo Māori, Higgins said people could choose anything to participate, from doing a quiz in te reo Māori, playing a kemu (game) or singing or listening to a waiata Māori.

Staff eager to use te reo

AMP Wealth Management chief operating officer Dhaya Sivakumar is one of those supporting Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori in the workplace.

He's taking part in a company-wide te reo Māori lesson at noon, which he said would would involve 250 to 300 staff members.

"Towards the end of the week, we're going to have a bit of a recap and the whole idea is to encourage people to feel confident and comfortable about using te reo in their everyday lives and we want to make sure they check in with each other at the end of the week and have an internal support group."

While staff were eager to use more te reo Māori, Sivakumar said many were too embarrassed by their lack of knowledge or worried about offending Māori by mispronouncing words, but he hoped having te reo Māori lessons in the office would change that.

"If you learn te reo and you learn about some of the values behind it, it's all around looking after each other and looking after the land and having a more sustainable future which is probably the way we should all be so I think business in general can take a lot of good lessons out of te reo Māori and Māori culture," Sivakumar said.

Drama school keen to share in moment

Toi Whakaari would also be joining the Māori Language Moment, the first time the Wellington-based drama school has taken part in Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori.

Tanea Heke BRON in Book Ends

Tanea Heke Photo: RNZ/Supplied?

Its director, Tanea Heke, said all 135 staff and students would sing the school waiata, Toi Whakaari E.

"Because we go from one end of the spectrum to the other in terms of those who can speak, what we can do as a school is that we can waiata, all of us can waiata, that is one thing that the students and staff have been really committed with [and] so if that is what we can do this year, let's do that and celebrate."

Programme of events planned at Treaty grounds

Meanwhile, in the Far North, the Treaty of Waitangi Grounds have a whole line-up of events planned for the week.

There'll be a workshop tomorrow explaining, in detail, pōwhiri protocols and tikanga, followed by a Māori Cuisine Night on Wednesday, and an introduction to carving workshop with Waitangi's resident kaiwhakairo on Sunday.

Waitangi Pōu tikanga Māori Mori Rapana said there has been a big push in the last decade to integrate te reo me ōna tikanga into the Waitangi Ground tours.

View of the marae on Treaty Grounds at Waitangi National Reserve, Northland Region, in 2014.

Carving, Māori cuisine and pōwhiri protocols and tikanga will be part of events at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds to mark Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori. Photo: Rafael Ben-Ari/Chameleons Eye/ 123RF

They were also supporting their non-Māori staff to get more comfortable with using te reo Māori.

"When you arrive at the main entrance, having our staff out the front there greeting you with 'Kia ora' or 'Tēnā koe' - simple little things like that making them feel comfortable expressing te reo Māori and using te reo Māori, and of course, supporting them in their reo Māori journey, because I know for non-Māori it can be quite daunting," Rapana said.

"We have waiata sessions twice a week for all of our staff who want to attend, so I think we've got a repertoire of 15 to 20 that we can break out at any powhiri... so that our staff feel comfortable with their te ao Māori journey, no matter how big or small it is."

Quoting the late Tā Hemi Henare, Mori Rapana said: "Ko te reo Māori te mauri o te mana Māori", which means, te reo Māori is the heart and soul of Māoridom.

For those wanting to be part of the Māori language moment, all registered events can be found [tuku.reomaori.co.nz here].

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