1972 Māori language petition takes top place for 50th anniversary

By Marena Mane

Next year, the 50th anniversary of the Māori language petition and Māori language day will be marked as a major occasion.

In 1972, a Māori language petition was presented to Parliament, requesting active recognition of Te Reo Māori. It received over 30,000 signatures and served as the catalyst for a major revitalisation of Te Reo.

Māori Development Minister Willie Jackson said the Māori language petition had been awarded a tier-two commemoration but will be upgraded to a tier-one commemoration, giving the language a lot more empowerment.

“How are we as a nation to celebrate it? How do government agencies come together and really whakamana (empower) our reo - so that's what the tier one whakanui (celebration) is all about.”

“It's about remembering those contributions from people who fronted this petition, who were not Māori speakers,” he says.

The milestone will be honoured in a variety of ways, Jackson says, and his departments will work with iwi, government agencies, and community organisations to figure out how they want to commemorate the occasion.

“The two main groups driving this will be Taura Whiri and Mātāwai so you got the Crown and you've got our people who will be celebrating this and working out the different events.”

Some have dismissed such events, including  Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori, but Jackson says he does not view this as tokenistic.

“I think it's part of a changing way, more and more people speaking Māori, Pākehā speaking Māori, sometimes there’s criticism of that. So we have to strengthen the strategy.”