Waitangi Day Te Reo

5 February 2015

We are already into February and Waitangi Day is almost upon us. For those of you unfamiliar with Te Tiriti o Waitangi (The Treaty of Waitangi) or wanting to brush up on the detail, here’s a good primer on the NZ History website.

Waitangi Day and issues around the Treaty are lightning rods for debate and discussion from all sides. This is a good thing.

My mind today went to two documentaries made by DEGNZ members that previously brought Māori issues to the fore: Peter Berger’s docudrama Waitangi – What Really Happened? and past guild president Dan Salmon’s documentary 2050: What If… Māori Gain Sovereignty – Tino Rangitiratanga?

There are many of our members who have worked on projects that have laid the issues out for deliberation.. And so have others. Even Gareth Morgan’s getting on the bandwagon. This is all good; even the redneckery (a new word), because it requires us to review our thoughts and opinions about rights, fairness and justice for all New Zealanders.

Here’s my little fuel to the fire for the coming weekend.

I am of the opinion that te reo Māori should be a compulsory subject at pre-school, primary, intermediate and secondary levels.

The reason I advocate for compulsory te reo in schools is because I believe bilingualism opens our eyes wider to the world and its cultures, making us more accepting of cultural differences.

Bilingualism is a positive.

Te reo Māori is a non-English language that we can have the easiest of access to, not just through schools, but through our neighbours, communities, marae, and the airwaves thanks to Maori Television and the Iwi Radio Network, amongst others. And te reo is ours. Another unique asset.

Radio New Zealand (RNZ) and the televison networks make a bilingual effort every Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori (Māori Language Week). RNZ now carries it through the rest of the year. This is to be applauded.

I was heartened to read of the protests this week outside the Bilingual Unit at Richmond Road School, just down the street from the guild office (I can’t see it from up here, though). Budgets had been ‘adjusted,’ and some parents believed it was to the detriment of the bilingual education happening there.

At a more personal level, I have admired the efforts of actor Jennifer Ward Leland (Actors Equity President) to use the reo.

There’s room for everyone to increase the usage of te reo Māori, especially in the media and screen industries. The Dead Lands gave us a great example on the big screen.

So this weekend why don’t you give the reo a try if you’re not already using it. Speak te reo Māori this Waitangi Day, even if it’s just to call someone a hua.

You’ll be making a contribution to bilingualism and te reo Māori language advancement, idotic statement or not.

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director