Te Wiki o te Reo Māori, Māori Language Week in context

“Ko te reo te mauri o te mana Māori. Ko te kupu te mauri o te reo Māori. E rua ēnei wehenga kōrero e hāngai tonu ana ki runga i te reo Māori. Ko te reo, nō te Atua mai.

The language is the life force of the mana Māori. The word is the life force of the language. These two ideas are crucial to the Māori language. A language that is a gift from God”

Sir James Hēnare, 1911–1989

As with everything we commemorate, celebrate and reflect on, understanding its roots and wider significance is key to understanding the true kaupapa it represents.

This Te Wiki o te Reo Māori, we would like to echo a post National Library has created to reflect on why this week holds power beyond the concept of language and highlight the timeline for te Reo Māori.

Te reo Māori has never been acknowledged as anything more than a language, shares authors Ruki Tobin and Erena Williamson.

Understanding Te reo isn’t understanding a language in silo. It is “the key to understanding our past, our present, and our future as united peoples of Aotearoa. It is a living entity that draws its mauri or life force from the user. It opens the door to a different world that invites you to learn more about your connections to the taiao or environment and your place in the whakapapa or genealogy of the universe,” shares Ruki Tobin, Poutiaki Rauemi.

Of course, a key part of the journey is understanding the timeline that paved the way for the week as we currently know it:

The Māori Language Petition (1972)

Te Reo Māori Day is on September 14th. This day celebrates and acknowledges the Māori Language Petition that was brought to Parliament with 30,000 signatures in 1972 by Ngā Tamatoa and Te Reo Māori Society to introduce the teaching of te reo Māori in primary and secondary schools.

Te Wiki o te Reo Māori (1975)

The day extended to a week, which still continues to today.

The emergence of kaupapa Māori education (1980s)

Kōhanga reo for preschoolers and kura kaupapa Māori for primary and secondary school students were introduced in the 80’s, bringing  kaupapa Māori education to institutions. Many of the early kura continue to flourish today.

Te reo Māori on radio (1920s) and television (1982)

The first television programme entirely in te reo Māori, Te Karere, was broadcast in 1982.

Te reo Māori recognised (1986) and an official language (1987)

The Waitangi Tribunal recognised te reo Māori as a taonga (treasure), one year before it was made an official language of Āotearoa New Zealand.

Mahuru Māori is born (2017)

Mahuru Māori invites individuals to engage in a variety of challenges using te reo Māori in their daily lives. This emerged after te reo expert Paraone Gloyne, undertook a social experiment to speak te reo Māori for one entire month.

Where are we today?

One in six Māori can speak te reo. Those aged between 15 and 24, along with those over 55, are most likely to be able to speak the language — a promising outlook for future generations. National Library has a stellar collection of examples to inspire.

Hear the full timeline of Te Wiki o te Reo Māori on National Library here.