Thoughts on the death of te reo – Editorial

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(By Potaua Biasiny-Tule) It was timely that the Waitangi Tribunal released the language portion of its Wai262 claims. For many years now, I have sat at hui with my old people and seen them lament the condition of our people, our lands, our waterways and our language. They all understand that times have changed but keep bringing our focus back to our tikanga, our kawa, as a means to revive and rejuvenate te reo.

Their words were “Bring your kids home as much as possible and what they know will rub off on the young ones. It is also a good way for the kuia, koroua to spot talents in the tamariki, enabling both to share knowledge and experiences so that one generation receives from the other and so that the young can refresh the minds of their kaumatua”. So the discussion that was started from the report is good as it needs to keep happening in public.

The analogy of te reo as a sick patient is key as well. Last year, our sister Judith nearly died after giving birth to her daughter. What started as a routine procedure turned into a battle for life and death, so the visuals are still fresh in my mind. My wife had accompanied her into the theatre and spotted things were not right so sent out a txt to the whole whanau get here NOW cos sis is in trouble.

In a matter of minutes, whanau were pulling up from all corners with others wanting to be kept in the loop. The doctors pulled us aside and said she is the sickest person in the hospital and were not sure about what will happen overnight. Our hearts dropped but we had to keep sharp, for everyones sake and start to talk things through. What happened? What are you doing now? What will be doing next? The medical team started by walking us through what they had done and how we could help. There would be lots of specialists seeing our sis over the next 12 hours and we said 1 whanau member had to be at her bedside at all times to ensure someone was looking after her and us. They hesitantly agreed.

Importantly, Nikolasa also sent a txt to our Koro Napi asking if he could come and say a karakia, she knew instinctively that our tupuna needed to be reminded how important the sis was to us and how we needed her here with her whanau, interestingly Koro Napi happened to already be at the hospital visiting whanau and was there in an instant. Koro came aside and said a small karakia for the whanau, the medical team and the new baby. He then said you stay with your sister son cos whanau love is the 1 medicine these places cannot give. With these words, our whanau went into shifts at her bedside. I got the 12am 9am shift. It was hard as I saw my sis nearly pass twice. The first time I cried and started talking to her with all I could muster. After half an hour she was right. The next time, just as the sun was about to rise, I got mad (in a nice way) and said sis they said all you had to do was make it to breakfast and youll be sweetotherwise youre over and your kids will never forgive you for giving up.

I then saw her turn for the first time since earlier yesterday afternoon and start to cry as well. She had heard me! With that, I started again to let her know what was happening not to fight the nurses, just to relax and that once the sun was up, all her kids would join us and then she could start to recover and she could go home. I felt that my sis had to know what she was fighting for her kids and that it would be extremely difficult but we could overcome anything, so long as she trusted what I was saying, trusted the support and believed that she could pull through. Come 9am and her kids arrived and gave their mum a big hug. The medical teams had brought her back, stabilised her and her whanau had given her the reason to fight from the inside. Over the next 2 weeks she came right, ever so slowly. A year later, it is still fresh in our minds how close we came…

So to hear that te reo is on life support and has flat lined brought back these memories.

Funny thing that once Judith regained consciousness, the first thing she did was lean over, motioned me to move closer with her finger and said “Bro…I’m thirsty…can I get a Coke please?”

From my reading of things, my personal reason why te reo is not my first language is because of the way my parents were expected to be growing up in Fordblock, Rotorua during the 70s and 80s. Go to school and be a good student then go to work and be a good worker, both of which were English-based. They got smacks for speaking Maori as did most kids of that time. I was raised as a kid to be more American than Maori (tv, music, cultural influences) and avoided school as it was to rigid and totally not me.

It was here that I spent much of my youth with my koroua, a Ringatu Minister who would remind me of nga Atua, all those elements which contribute to our wholeness, to respect the taonga which were left for us to enjoy today and always told stories of our tupuna, especially those from Maungapohatu, from Te Urewera, from Te Waimana. It was here that I learned of our whanau, hapu, iwi as Israelites, as outcasts in exile from Te Urewera due to the Governments Colonial and Settler actions during the mid to late 1800s and early 1900s.

When Te Kooti was pursued, our hapu were devastated. Same again when Rua Kenana set up Maungapohatu. Once the Government took over control of our homelands, we became exiles much like those old people in the Old Testament. To this day, our removal from our lands has also equated to the removal of our language. Even now, most Maori I know live in the cities, landless (that is paying rent to make someone else rich) and usually language-less. My Ringatu schooling equates the continued loss of language alongside the continued loss of land.

It feels really stink to be a landless Maori just as much as it feels stink to be a reo-less Maori. Either way though, we keep going because there are many signs that say things are turning around, albeit slowly.

This all comes back to He Huia te Reo, the Maori Language Expo held in Rotorua on Friday 8th October 2010 here in Rotorua. What we appreciated about He Huia te Reo was that Maori from all over came together to celebrate, to share ideas and korero, to sell resources which are much needed and appreciated to be side by side with whanau who are normally unrecognised in this fight to keep our reo alive. We attended the Expo last year in Porirua and the enormity of it blew us away so much so that we hid in the dark, giggling like school kids at all the te reo celebrities we were standing next to. Hui like this for young people like us leave a deep impression and it was after attending that we all said lets get ready for next year.

It was awesome that Huia te Reo came to Rotorua as well, giving us the chance to include our home whanau as they all loved hearing about the 2009 Expo.

In closing, can I just point out that the lesson for the survival of our language is in the name of the kaupapa; He Huia te Reo. We lost the Huia yet did not appreciate what we had and in some instances, could do little but remember and mourn. This cannot be the same with te reo Maori. Instead, we have to shift focus again from the dying and focus on the living how have we managed to keep what remains of our ancient ngahere alive, how have we recovered pukeko to the point that they are virtually everywhere, what programmes were necessary to protect the kokako, the karearea, the kaka? Some of these lessons in conservation can be applied here. Same with language lessons learned in Wales, in Saamiland, in the Pacific Islands, in Hawaii what are they doing to keep their languages alive and what more can be done? It is about stabilising first and slowly but surely bringing our reo out of critical condition, into recovery mode and then slowly but surely, to once again flourish all around the World.

“He honore he maungarongo ki te whenua – He whakaaro pai ki nga tangatakatoa”

na Potaua

9 COMMENTS

  1. Teenaa koe, Potaua

    I too was raised by Te Arawa, by my grandparents in Matata. I am also of the generation that is caught between two worldviews – highly skilled in one (Te Ao Paakeha) but highly influenced by the other (Te Ao Taangata Whenua).

    From my perspective, Wai 262 is not so much about preserving those things important to us; it is more about protecting an entirely unique identity housed in indigeneity.

    Te Ao Taangata Whenua is an indigenous worldview polar opposing to the Western tradition. They preach secularism – we see Atua. They assert dominion over the natural world – we proclaim the natural world as whaanau. Literally, our worldview is the black to their white. Te Reo, while not the sole entrance into Te Ao Taangata Whenua, is, in my opinion, an essential conduit into the depths of a worldview that emphasises relationships within and with the natural world, and with Atua.

    I am struggling to learn Te Reo and hopefully this time next year I will have sufficient proficiency in which to gain depth to the breadth that is Te Ao Taangata Whenua.

  2. Tena koe e te rangatira me o korero / whakaaro hohonu . E maha nga kaupapa papai ka taea te hono atu. Tenei te mihi ki a koe me to whanau e kawea nei tenei kaupapa miharo i runga i te ipurangi. Ko tenei tetahi huarahi ki te whakaoraora i to tatou reo , kia kite ai o tatou tamariki ka taea te whakamahia to tatou reo i runga i te ipurangi , ano nei te mahi a te teihana maori ki te paoho i to tatou reo i runga i te pouaka whakaata huri noa ki nga reo irirangi nga niu pepa era atu o nga kaupapa whakaata. Mena ka kitea a tatou tamariki he hua kei roto i te reo ka ora tonu to tatou reo. Ae e tika ana kei te ngarongaro haere a tatou pou kaikorero ,nga pounamu o nga tikanga nga taonga o ratou ma. Engari te paku marama e piataata mai mo to tatou reo ,ko a tatou rangatahi i runga i nga pouaka whakaata , i roto i o tatou rohe , kei runga i nga poari matua e matatau ana ki te reo ahakoa kaore ano kia tae atu ki te panekiritanga o te matauranga , te mohiotanga ka kitea te hikakatanga mo to ratou tainuitanga , tuhoetanga ,to ratou reo , a ratou tikanga. Me kii mena ka pera te kaha o enei o a tatou rangatahi mai i nga kura kaupapa , nga wharekura tera pea ka ora tonu to tatou. Engari e tika tau me whakamahia te reo kia kore noho hei reo marae noaiho hei reo kura noaiho engari hei reo motuhake mo to tatou whenua. Tenei te wero atu ki te kawana kaua e aro atu ki nga tatauranga , engari kimihia he huarahi tautoko , kimihia te oranga , ano nei kia tatou te iwi maori whakamahia te reo , kia mau ki nga tikanga kia mau ki nga taonga. Ano tetahi pakiwaitara mai i a Paraone Gloyne i a ia i nga Manu Korero ki waitaha.

    "I haere tetahi tama nanakia i ona haerenga he manu i roto i ona ringa. Ka patai atu mena kei te ora kei te mate ranei tenei manu. Mena ka whakautu kei te ora te manu ka kohurutia e ia te manu. Mena ka whakautua kei te mate te manu ka tukuna te manu kia rere.K a haere ia ki tetahi kaumatua me te patai kei te ora kei te mate ranei tenei manu. Ko te whakautu o te kaumatua e tama te oranga te matenga ranei o tera manu kei roto i o ringa."

    E te iwi te oranga te matenga ranei o to tatou reo , o a tatou tikanga/kawa kei roto i o tatou ringa.

    hei korero whakakapi maku ka ano kia koe Potaua mo to tautoko i aku nei kaupapa i roto i o wharangi nei ahakoa hip hop , kapa haka , whutuporo riki ranei tenei te mihi tenei te mihi tenei te mihi.

    Noho ora mai

    Te Kawe

  3. Our Heavenly Father gave us our Reo to CHERISH……Not for man to take it off us!!!!

    "FOR UNITED WE STAND"

  4. Ka rawe e hoa!

    Kua panuitia e au te korero mo tou tuahine. Ka aroha atu ki a koutou katoa te whanau Tule, Rakuraku hoki, mo te wa i mauiui ai i a Judith. Heoi ano, he rite tonu te korero ki to tatau reo rangatira. Ara, ka hinga te reo ka ngaro atu o tatou taonga i tuku iho mai nga tupuna. No reira, kei te mihi rawe atu ki a koe mo to koha ki a matou te hunga panui. Me aroha atu ki a Judith ma, heoi, ka piki te ora i to tatou reo rangatira. Kia kaha ra whanau.

    Michael

  5. ae ra, me whakaai to korero e Hinemarie,engari, ki toku raru, kei te noho au ki Ahutareiria ki Kalgoorlie, na reira, kei te wareware te maha o nga kupu.. Ki toku whakaaro tonu; Kaahore pai te noho i enei whenua;; I don't belong here, Kaahore au he tangatawhenua engari kei te tautoko taaaku hoatane….Koena te whakaaro maori ki te tautoko ki te tautoko ki te tautoko.. ki etehi wa he dilemma tera…ki aku toru heneti anake.

  6. Tena korua ko Lasa, He mihi nui mo o korua kaha ki te whakaputa i nga korero e pa ana ki to tatou ao Maori. Ae, kei te tautoko au i tera whakaaro. Kei te torutoru noa iho nga tangata e korero ana i roto i to tatou reo rangatira. Te nuinga o te wa ka korero Pakeha te tangata ahakoa matatau ana i te reo. He ahai tenei? Mai i te whakaputa i nga he me nga hapa ka taea te tangata ki te whakatika. Mena ka kore te tangata e korero i roto i te reo pehea te puawai? Pai ake te torutoru ki te kore. Pai ake te kore ki te kore rawa! Me korero! He wero ki nga mea e matatau ana i te reo, me whangai i te kaikorero ahakoa nga hapa me nga he. Ata whakatika. Ko te nuinga o nga korero i te papaho, ko nga he, ko nga hapa, kei te mate haere. Whakanuia i te hari koa o to tatou reo. Aku rua heneti anake.

  7. Te ataahua hoki o weenei kooreroraka!

    He kai ma te hinengaro, he tohu no te ao wairua,

    hei hikoinga ma te tinana!

    Arohanuitia ana tenei kaupapa e maatou Te Whaanau Paora!

    Hui te mararma, hui ora!

    Ropata Paora

  8. Mean bro! Love the analogy. I agree also, lets focus on the positives with our language efforts, understanding completely the true state currently and working towards those key steps. Recovery, stabilisation,language growth, world domination. woops!

    Wicked korero about your sis, too close. I love the way our whanau work together to support each other during the hard times. He tikanga Maori tuturu!

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