Language is something we can all take for granted. It helps us navigate our world and make sense of our surroundings.
Over the past week, the Taranaki Daily News has published a number of stories about the role te reo Maori plays in the lives of people living in our region as a way to mark Maori Language Week, which began on July 21. From the struggles of second language learners to the courage of people deciding to take the step to reclaim their reo, you cannot help but think twice about the role culture and identity plays in our society.
As a former social worker, I know first-hand how strongly the two are linked and how cultural programmes can transform the lives of troubled youth and families. And for many, there was always a reason why it was missing in the first place.
For Taranaki Maori, you cannot discuss the state of te reo in the region without acknowledging the impact historical breaches of the Treaty of Waitangi have had on iwi.
Large land confiscation and negative colonial attitudes towards Maori culture have left an enduring legacy and although pending settlements for both Ngaruahine and Te Atiawa represent a chance for both iwi to redress the damage, the impact is still very real today. But that is not to say things will always be that way. Despite the obstacles faced, gains are being made regarding Taranaki reo development and revitalisation and it is a process being driven mainly by the passion and persistence of people.
Contributions from academics like Dr Ruakere Hond and organisations such as Te Reo o Taranaki and iwi radio station Te Korimako o Taranaki are strengthened by the day-to-day contributions made by kohanga reo and kura kaupapa teachers as they aim to grow the next crop of language speakers.
The importance of the whanau unit to Maori language preservation should not be underestimated either. Everyday in homes, marae and communities thoughout Taranaki, te reo is being spoken, passed between family members and through the generations.
This personal commitment is one of the ways te reo Maori will be kept alive not only in Taranaki but in other parts of the country. Our indigenous culture is what makes us unique and it is something we can all help to protect everyday. Making a conscious effort to pronounce Maori words properly is a simple way to show te reo the respect it deserves.
- Taranaki Daily News
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