George FM is fizzed up about Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori. Every year it’s a great chance for all of us to put even more of a focus than usual on our beautiful language, but this year in particular is hugely significant because of something epic that happened 50 years ago, this week. We thought we’d give you a little background on why this year is such a milestone.
Māori language week was once a day. It began 50 years ago after 14th September 1972 when The Māori Language petition was handed to government on the steps of parliament by Hana Te Hemara with groups Ngā Tamatoa, Te Rōpu Reo Māori, Te Huinga Rangatahi, Te Reo Māori Society and the support of many others. The petition asked for active recognition of te reo Māori in Aotearoa and for the language to be taught in schools. It had around 33k signatures. It is still not compulsory today for the language to be taught in schools. Māori Language week started three years after that in 1975.
The petition was in response to the declining rate of Māori speakers due to urbanisation and structural objection to its use in schooling institutions and public arenas. Māori children were often 'strapped' and told to write lines for speaking Māori in school, and most mainstream environments refused to acknowledge it, and in general Pākehā were openly disdainful of its use. The petition sparked an array of pushback from Māori over these issues and by the 1980's Māori cultural and language revitalisation was at a fever pitch, spawning full immersion educational movements Te Kohanga Reo and Kura Kaupapa, Iwi Radio and a call for Māori inclusion in Mainstream media. `
Although Article Two of the Treaty of Waitangi secured the protection of Te Reo as a tāonga for Māori, its legal recognition has been long fought through protests, activist groups, Pākeha allyship, and ultimately those who dedicate their lives to tuku iho, teaching it day in day out. It was only formally recognised as an official language of New Zealand in 1987.
Māori was once the only language spoken on Aotearoa whenua. The missionaries and colonisers from all overseas countries had to learn it in order to communicate with those living here, and they did, so they could trade, and later after the Treaty was signed, purchase land. After seeing a massive dip in its acceptance we are now finally as a nation beginning to celebrate how lucky we are to have something uniquely defining in a global landscape.
In particular today we’d like to spotlight how much wāhine played a huge part in the revitalization of the language. As mentioned above, wahine Māori activist Hana Te Hemara of course as a symbol of resilience. This year is the 50th Anniversary of the petition and a mural for Hana Te Hemara is being created in Taranaki to commemorate. The Kohanga Reo and Kura Kaupapa movements were led and maintained mostly by wāhine, with kuia being the driving force in language nesting and teaching. These schooling structures have now raised two generations of first language Māori speakers. Women have long been the consistent stakeholders in ensuring the continuation of generational learning in educational environments. Tēnei te mihi nui ki a koutou. E kore mātou e wareware i tō koutou aroha me tō pono ki te kaupapa. We will never forget your dedication and love for all to be able to enjoy Te Reo Māori.
At George we’re proud to celebrate and inspire the growth of te reo Māori all year round, but especially listen out this week as we celebrate with our daily George FM Kīwaha o te rā (phrase of the day) on social & on air. Tune in for our Māori Language Moment at midday Wednesday when we spin a set of 100% te reo Māori bangers. Also, music producers have a go at our Waiata Reo Remix Comp. And everyone - just get amongst te reo any way you can. This week, next week, and the week after! Kia kaha te reo Māori!
Tīpare Ngā, George Te Ao Māori Liason | Dean Campbell, George Content Director