Despite British imperialism being embedded in the life of the nation of all of its colonies, like Tāwhiao, Māori ourselves must build our own houses. Despite the oppressive British structures that continue to hinder Indigenous people everyday, the ridge-pole of my house shall be of tikanga, reo and mātauranga Māori. Despite the ongoing British colonisation of Indigenous lands and cultures, the supporting posts of my house shall be the unseen life force of those exact lands that continue to be desecrated and my Māori culture and identity which allows me to stand as Māori in this world.
Raise the people with the fruit of their identity, strengthen them with the fruits to reach their full Indigenous potentialities, for they are their ancestor’s wildest dreams. For our ancestors created humankind from the earthly resources, pursued celestial knowledge from the heavens and navigated by the stars across the Pacific.
Never mind the house that Jack built.
What about the proverbial houses that our own ancestors built?
Admire the house that Kupe built.
Honour the house that Tāwhiao built.
Respect the house that Kawiti built.
Praise the house that Apirana built.
Appreciate the house that Whina built.
Pay homage to the house that Te Pūea built.
Observe the house that Moana continues to build.
Execute the construction of your own house for our ancestors have equipped us with tools so that we are capable of breaking down oppressive structures and rebuild the global Indigenous community of the future. For we are our ancestors wildest dreams.
Amid the renaissance of Indigenous knowledge, it really has been a time to be alive in the 21st century as a young Māori coming up in the world. With the recent rise in people wanting to learn te reo Māori, whether they are new to the language or lost it through colonisation, it is exciting to know that people are taking the challenge upon themselves so that the language will not die. With this recent rise in te reo Māori speakers and learners, more of the language has been used as a foundation for many fashion, technology and business ventures that are changing the way that we engage with te reo Māori, forever. With this potential, te reo Māori isn’t only on the tongue of Māori and the wider New Zealand population, these ventures have allowed the language to be taken to the world. In terms of fashion, gone are the days of decking ourselves out with the latest on trend Nike and Adidas. We’ve now got options from Tukau Legacy, Reo Way, Tiāre, Nichola Te Kiri and Adrienne Whitewood. This is the new consumerism with a reo Māori twist and if this doesn’t speak tino rangatiratanga to you then I don’t know what will.
Throughout the history of Aotearoa New Zealand, there has always been a concern for the life of te reo Māori. In saying this, there have been reo Māori champions that have been constant in the fight for te reo Māori in our country. 1987 was the year that te reo Māori became an official language in Aotearoa, despite the fact that Māori have occupied this land for centuries. That is why I say, “never mind the house that Jack built”. Because before we lived in European-styled houses, we lived in whare raupō and we had our own whare wānanga and traditional ways of living and being. But throughout this history, te reo Māori is the constant. It connects Māori with their tūpuna. Unfortunately there aren’t many ways anymore that we can connect with our tūpuna, do the same and live as they did. But we can speak the same language as them, albeit grammatically different and I suppose more advanced, it is the same language nonetheless.
Te reo Māori in 2019 has taken a beating but has also thrived in many instances. On the 7th of May, te ao Māori and Aotearoa New Zealand mourned the death of reo Māori academic and expert James Te Wharehuia Milroy CNZM QSO. Te Wharehuia was one of three founders and Professors of Te Panekiretanga o te Reo (the Institute of Excellence in the Māori Language) which has produced many of our most elite te reo Māori speakers to date. The impact Te Wharehuia has made on te ao Māori, Aotearoa New Zealand in general and the world in fact, will be hard to surpass. Nō reira e te rangatira, haere atu ra! Four days after the passing of Te Wharehuia, te ao Māori was struck again with the news of the passing of legendary seafarer Sir Hekenukumai Ngāiwi Pūhipi KNZM MBE. Although Sir Hek is not commonly known as a reo Māori champion, he spoke the language of Polynesian voyaging traditions – a branch of our illustrious reo Māori. Anō nei he rangatira kua riro ki tua. Ngā tauwhirotanga o te ao wairua ki runga i te ao kikokiko nei. Ngā mate ki a rātou, tātou te hunga ora ki a tātou. Tihei mauriora!
Here at the University of Waikato we are blessed with such an array of talented and devout reo Māori speakers that it is many a time a shock to hear statistics of the dire state of te reo Māori in the regions and across the country. If anything, this is definitely a form of brown privilege. But what can we do for our whānau and friends who aren’t as fortunate to attend our institution and be taught by the likes of Prof. Pou Temara, Assoc. Prof. Te Kahautu Maxwell and young guns Beau Stowers and Tama Hata? There is a lot of work to be done to save our reo, e hoa mā!
Ko te reo te mauri o te mana Māori. Ko te kupu te mauri o te reo Māori. The language is the life force of the mana Māori. The word is the life force of the language.
If we don’t speak our language, in turn, the language has no environment to exist in.
Ko te reo Māori e ngunguru nei. Ākina, whakatika, hō!