Archives For Te Reo

It’s Te Wiki o te Reo Māori 2015, Māori Language Week. If we are to keep the unique culture of Aotearoa alive, we needed to cherish and champion the Māori language.

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Today marks the start of Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori / Māori Language Week (July 21—27).

Celebrate Māori Language Week 2014.

Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori is a chance to celebrate and learn more about te reo—a unique and important part of our identity as New Zealanders.

This year’s theme is Te Kupu o te Wiki, or The Word of the Week, which encourages us to broaden our vocabulary by learning a new Māori word each week for 50 weeks.

Department of Conservation (DOC) staff are taking on the challenge.

Visit the Kōrero Māori website the if you’re keen to join us.

Manu / bird. Director-General Lou Sanson shares the word for the week beginning 27 April 2015.

Manu / bird. Director-General Lou Sanson shares one of the 50 kupu

Hopefully, by taking on the Te Kupu o te Wiki challenge, we will make more Māori words and phrases commonplace around DOC.

To celebrate Te Wiki o te Reo Māori – Māori Language Week we enjoy a kōrero about te reo with Brett Cowan, Community Relations Ranger, Kaikoura

Brett helping at Wairau Bar archeological dig.

Brett helping at Wairau Bar archeological dig

My level of te reo fluency is…

Kei te whakamahana te paepae. Intermediate level. I promote Te Mita O Kāi Tahu/Ngāi Tahu dialect.

The Māori name of my hometown and the story behind that name is…

Kaikoura is the short version as the early settlers couldn’t pronounce “Te Ahi Kaikoura O Tama Ki Te Raki”.

Tamakiteraki was a great traveller of Te Waipounamu/South Island. Kaikoura was one of his favourite sites to stop. In particular, the Kaikoura Peninsula, where he would gather koura/crayfish. The koura were so plentiful he would only need to collect them from the rock pools, requiring only his ankles to get wet as they lay on top of each other six-deep in the pool. Te Ahi Kaikoura O Tama Ki Te Raki means ‘The place where Tamakiteraki would gather, cook and eat his crayfish’.

Brett strumming his guitar.

Brett strumming away

My tip to help you learn/practice te reo is…

Most people only korero 5% of te reo they know, and keep 95% hidden. My challenge to you is to korero 95% of what you know and only keep 5% to yourself.

My te reo challenge of the day is… 

If someone mispronounces a Māori word or name, without putting them down, try to pronounce it correctly in a sentence.

I reckon you should learn te reo because…

It’s like a muscle in your body. If you don’t use it, it becomes weak.

To me, ‘ensuring my work is in line with the Principles of the Treaty of Waitangi’ means…. 

I am a Māori conservation worker. Not just a conservation worker that happens to be Māori.

It’s Māori Language Week—Te Wiki o Te Reo Māoria perfect time for us to enjoy a kōrero about te reo with Joe Harawira, DOC’s Kaihautu – Te Putahitanga (Manager- Strategic Partnerships).

Language is central to the cultural identity of both the individual and the community to which he or she belongs. Not only does a language express the realities of a particular group, but it also marks one’s membership of that group, both from within (since the language is shared) and without (since it highlights one’s differences).

Joe Harawira at the Maori Market in 2011.

Joe story telling at the Māori Market in 2011

If a language is lost, the cultural identity of the group is considerably weakened, which in turn alters the very nature of the society of which that group is part. In light of this, it may be considered important to retain and promote the Māori language, in order, amongst other things, to develop a diverse and harmonious society.

Ko Te Reo Te Hā Te Mauri O Te Māoritanga.
Language is the very life-breath of being Māori.

Te Taura Whiri I te reo
Māori Language Commission

In 1987, the Māori language became an official language of New Zealand along with English and, more recently, Sign Language (2006).

The Māori language is a very important part of who I am as New Zealander. Having travelled the world over the past 35 years as a storyteller, I am constantly asked by the audiences I perform to, to tell the story in my language, the Māori language.

All languages have a wairua, a spirit. The Māori language seems to be one of those languages that people can hear, can feel, can know, can understand. Even though the language is foreign to the ear, and the people I met on my travels are first time listeners of the Māori language.

I first of all tell the story in te reo Māori and then retell it in English, with a translator from that country retelling it in German, Dutch, French, Hungarian and so on. In fact, when in Paris last January, I told a story in te reo Māori and a young Māori university student who had been through the Kura Kaupapa Māori immersion schooling system translated straight into French for the children gathered. It was a fantastic experience.

Joe Harawira storytelling in the Outback (Kakadu).

Joe storytelling in the Outback (Kakadu)

The Māori language has a spirit of its own and in order to maintain the integrity of the spirit, correct pronunciation is required. To mispronounce a word is to alter its story and its spirit. All names, including place names, have a whakapapa, a story.

An example of people altering words is the use of Paraparam for Paraparaumu. I am not sure what the story is behind Paraparam, other than people having trouble pronouncing the word or just plain laziness. I could be facetious and say that the story behind Paraparam is that it is about someone pushing a pram down the street. Paraparaumu alludes to the plentiful food resources of the area, evident in the leftovers found in the food pits. The literal translation of parapara is scraps and umu is cooking pit or oven.

I make this point, more so, to share the importance of maintaining the integrity and the spirit of the language through correct pronunciation, as the correct pronunciation of Māori names and words has a bearing on its meaning. I wish not to labour the point of the importance of language to a culture, other than to say that we all are connected, physically, spiritually and mentally to the natural world, in our own ways, through our deep sense of manaaki (caring) and tiaki (nurturing).

The Māori language is a simple language. It is made up of vowels and consonants. An understanding of the pronunciation of those vowels and consonants will go a long way to giving the language the mana that it deserves. I congratulate those that see value in learning the Māori language as an addition to the tool and skill sets that you already possess.

Kia kaha.

Ask students in Dunedin how you snorkel a dune lake in the Far North without leaving home and they will tell you, ‘LEARNZ of course!’

Students checking out a fish under the microscope.

Checking out a fish

What started as a way to link New Zealand school children with field work in Antarctica back in 1996, has now evolved into a chance for schools to take part in virtual field trips across the country via live audio link ups and an interactive website with video, a web board and ‘ask an expert’ posts.

In its fourth year, the Far North field trip focuses on wetlands, with a strong Tikanga Māori and Te Reo component.

This year the focus of the Far North field trip was World Wetlands Day, held at Lake Ngatu. Schools from as far away as Dunedin joined in via LEARNZ, while around 160 students from nine Far North schools, and homeschoolers, actively participating in activities including a guided walk; investigating what species live in the lake; and traditional uses for natural resources found around the lake.

A sample collected from the wetland.

From the wetland

Ahipara School student, Ruapounamu, gave the most common response from students when asked for their highlight of the day; “My favourite was snorkelling because it was cool to see all the fish and the species that live in the lake.”

Coordinator, Camellia Nielsen, whose team ran the snorkelling, says her goal was to help the children to appreciate their role as kaitiaki (guardians) of the wetland.

Experiencing Marine Reserves Coordinator, Camellia Nielsen being interviewed.

Coordinator, Camellia Nielsen, being interviewed

“It’s a hands-on demonstration of the value of wetlands as flood protection,” says Camellia.

When quizzed about what they had discovered, Paparore School students talked about wetlands as also being places for holding water and providing habitat for native animals.

This year is the first time that the classroom materials have also been available in Te Reo.

DOC Kaitaia’s Community Relations Ranger and key organiser, Denice Gilliespie, believes that the event showed the lake in a whole different light for the students.

“They see how important it is to look after it so it sustains us all now and forever, recreationally and culturally,” says Denice.

Showing the children how to make things from natural materials that grow around the lake.

Whaea Betsy and Whaea Jane show the children how to make things from natural materials that grow around the lake

Lake Ngatu sits within the rohe of Ngai Takoto. Part of Ngai Takoto’s whakatauki (proverb) talks about the pioke (dog shark) being small in stature but still able to swim against the strong currents around it. For Te Runanga O Ngai Takoto’s Environmental Manager, Kaio Hooper, this is an important reminder in his role and commitment to ensuring that the lake is protected and cared for, despite increasing environmental pressures on the lake’s wellbeing.

Although still ranked as outstanding, environmental monitoring indicates a decline in Lake Ngatu’s water quality, and an increase in pest species. Kaio says this is a case for concern for Ngai Takoto, as the kaitiaki of the lake.

“For our people it’s not so much about scientific reports. They rely more on what they see, and they are noticing that the water is not as clear as it once was,” says Kaio.

Whaea Betsy with the poi and waka she made.

Whaea Betsy with the poi and waka she made

Kaio says Ngai Takoto is looking at ways they can address their concerns. To start the conversation, Kaio set up an information stall where people were asked to complete a simple survey focussed on understanding people’s aspirations and concerns for the lake’s health.

“We’ve been watching the lake change over the past couple of years and it’s not good. We want to work alongside interested parties on a management plan, and the survey is a good starting point” says Kaio.

World Wetlands Day at Lake Ngatu was a two day event hosted by Ngai Takoto and DOC, with support from Bushland’s Trust, Northland Regional Council, Mountain’s to Sea Conservation Trust and Clean Stream Northland.


World Wetlands Day

World Wetlands Day is an annual event held every year on February 2 to promote the value and vulnerability of wetlands across the globe promoted by RAMSAR, an international agreement to protect wetlands.