When Warren Gabb of Orewa, a direct descendent of a prominent Maori Chief was presented with the chance to study Te Reo a year ago with daughter Emma, he embraced the challenge.
The proud father and daughter were amongst the graduands from NorthTec, having their achievements recognized at the first of two NorthTec Graduation ceremonies on March 8. The Gabb’s made a special trip up to Whangarei from their home in Orewa for the occasion, collecting their Certificates in Te Pokaitahi Ngapuhi-Nui-Tonu from NorthTec Council Chairman Vern Dark.
Afterwards, Warren said for him, it wasn’t just about being awarded with a Certificate, he felt good about what he and Emma had achieved together, “turning a corner” with their Te Reo that he said felt “mean.”
With his ancestry descending from the line of Te Ruki Kawati, the last Maori Chief to later sign The Treaty of Waitangi in May 1840, it was important to Warren as a sixth generation direct descendent, to get back in touch with his family roots by learning his native language properly.
The 43 year-old said Chief Kawati had introduced the world to trench warfare in the first Maori Land War battles at Ruapekapeka near Whangarei at Puketutu and Ohaeawai Pas, in support of his nephew Hone Heke.
Last year, Warren’s 65 year-old mother Mate-Marie Gabb (nee Reihana) qualified with a Bachelor of Te Reo Maori degree, which gave him further incentive to become competent in Te Reo Maori, as he considered he was not as far advanced as he ought to be with such a proud family history.
Warren said while the full emersion course at Te renga Waka o Orewa was effectively entry level, it had still been one of the hardest challenges he had ever faced.
“The course really did pose some big challenges and at times, I did feel I wasn’t in the same waka as everyone else who were so more advanced,” he said.
As the intensity lifted, plenty was expected of those on the course especially, in the last three months which is when he found it tough having to write 800 word essays he said.
“You really had to do your homework. I had to work extra hard because I’m not an academic, at college I could not read that well with a reading level well below what it should have been,” he said.
In spite of the hard work, he and Emma were grateful to Kaiako Kereama Nathan and his whanau for their support during the course. “Stuff didn’t make sense to me before, but I’ve now turned a corner. It has started my speaking (koorero). I’m on a role now, and want to keep it up.”
Dad said Emma had coped with the course material a lot easier than he did, who had studied Te Reo Maori in some depth at school. Emma said she had been involved with Maori at both Tauranga Girl’s High School, and Whangaparoa College for five years.
“I have NCEA Level One and Two and then did this Certificate with dad as we both wanted to do it,” she said.
Since completing the course, she has moved back to her Mum’s in Tauranga to train to become an early childhood teacher and will also be doing a Level 3 course in Maori enabling her to apply the language to her teaching once qualified.
Meanwhile, Warren will have plenty of opportunities to continue speaking Te Reo with his Dutch partner Jennifer, who is six months from completing the same NorthTec Certificate. Warren and Jennifer met three months after she arrived in New Zealand from Holland 3.5 years ago, who travelled up with them to the graduation.
She said it was important to her to make an effort to absorb as much of the Maori culture as she can, out of respect for Warren’s whanau who belong to the Ngati Hine Te Hapu or sub-tribe of Nga Puhi. Especially, she said as it nice to understand what is happening, with them often visiting Nga Puhi Marae and attending various family occasions.