Student issues te reo Maori challenge to the people of Cambridge
A student is challenging the people in his town to put aside their fear of things Maori and step up to learn the country's indigenous language.
Cambridge High School student Freddie Dillon moved to New Zealand from England when he was two years old and says he can't claim any Maori heritage or history.
But it hasn't prevented the year 13 student from immersing himself in the language, culture and history of Maori.
He's able to have a conversation in Maori now and is throwing out a challenge to people in Cambridge to start working towards the same goal.
He believes there aren't enough te reo speakers in Cambridge but Maori Language Week, July 4-10, is a chance for people to have a go.
The theme for this year is ākina te reo – behind you all the way, which is about using te reo to support people, to inspire and to cheer on.
"I personally believe that people here think any mention of anything Maori is weird or too hard, which is wrong. I think they just have no knowledge of the subject," he said.
He said Cambridge was one of the first military towns in the Waikato and has rich pioneering history. But there was little incorporating the town's Maori community.
"People are afraid to get involved in something they don't understand so I think the problem facing te reo is that people aren't willing to take the first step, which is huge.
"There aren't enough people involved in te reo."
Dillon's te reo Maori studies showed that before it was colonised, Cambridge was known as Te Oko Horoi, or The Washing Bowl and was a spiritual place.
His classmates Blaze Collins and BJ Tupaea agree with his thoughts on Maori language, and said their te reo class is the only place they can speak the language frequently in Cambridge.
"It should be taught at a young age so it's easy to pick back up again," said Collins, who started speaking te reo so she could find out more about her Maori heritage.
"I already knew our marae, but I found out so much more about my upbringing."
She wants to become a Maori lawyer, but is worried the language will have died by the time she's able to reach that goal.
"I believe that it's not celebrated enough. One week of the year isn't enough to capture the whole aspect of the Maori culture," she said.
Tupaea learned the language when he was a child but his ability to use it everyday diminished as he attended "mainstream" schools. He was able to use the language often once again, when he began studying at Cambridge High School.
"I really believe that other cultures would enjoy our culture, and it would be great for others to get into it and uphold it for future generations," he said.