It was just another day at Gisborne Girls High School for student Erica Jones, until she was called to the office to pick up a letter.
I was kind of like, I wonder what this is, and it says congratulations . . . .
It was a letter of commendation from Race Relations Commissioner Joris de Bres for her work on a Maori Language Week DVD about the suppression of te reo in Tairawhiti schools last century.
I’m pretty overwhelmed. I didn’t really expect this because it’s a pretty big privilege.
Mr de Bres heard about it from former Gisborne Girls High School principal and Human Rights Commissioner Karen Johansen, who attended the launch of the DVD.
It was from a young girls point-of-view and that makes the story very powerful, in terms of the future and the past of the Maori language, Mr de Bres said.
Often what we look for is really something that will excite people’s interest because it’s different.
The Human Rights Commission acknowledges about 10 people every month.
We look at something that has told a bit of a story and deserves to be better recognised, Mr des Bres said.
Erica said the stories weren’t very pretty because of the struggle older generation Maori went through to retain the language.
Because Tini Glover is my great uncle, it was very moving to hear his story and see him cry, she said.
I hope it gets all around New Zealand because I don’t even think people know how hard it was for them.
Mr de Bres said Gisborne had a lot of business, government and school initiatives to promote race relations because of the greater balance of Maori and Pakeha.
Thanks to Jack Payne for a choice story and to Joris de Bres & the Human Rights Commission for acknowledging this mahi