On Wednesday 30th September Professor Rāwinia Higgins from Victoria University of Wellington, presented a professorial lecture on the current state of te reo Māori.
The whakataukī - Ka tangi te pīpīwharauroa, ko te karere a Mahuru - speaks to how the pīpīwharauroa’s call signals that spring has commenced and also conveniently provides an analogy that seems appropriate to the current state of te reo Māori.
It not only invites a consideration of the relationship between the pīpīwharauroa and Mahuru, but also for me, how the notion of ‘tangi’ might be thought to echo in the struggle for Māori language revitalisation.
In Mahuru (September) 1972 the Māori language petition was placed on the steps of Parliament, precipitating events such as Māori language Day that eventually led to Māori language week.
In 2015, Mahuru has also been a reo Māori month in which a number of people have taken up the challenge to speak only te reo Māori. Social media provides us with an ideal platform to observe the journey of these Māori language aficionados as they confront opportunities and challenges in our ‘doggedly monolingual’ environment.
Will these Māori language enthusiasts be like the pīpīwharauroa, forcing themselves into the nests of others in order to survive? What are the best strategies to ensure the survival of the language?
These questions and others will be reflected on as we contemplate te reo Māori and its future direction.
Professor Rāwinia Higgins is Head of School for Te Kawa a Māui in 2014. In July 2014 she became Professor of Māori Studies and Iho Ngārahu Māori (Assistant Vice Chancellor Māori Research). She was joint Principle Investigator of Te Kura Roa, a 3-year, $1.5m Ngā Pae o Te Māramatanga Pae Tawhiti Initiative for Te Reo Māori and currently leads the Whaihua—Community Responsiveness project in collaboration with Te Ataarangi and Te Kōhanga Reo. Her research interests include te reo Māori, Māori language literature, Māori language planning and policy, Tikanga Māori and Moko.