Five prominent Maori leaders share lifetime award for commitment to te reo and tikanga

Five well-deserving recipients have been presented Te Toi ō Ngā Rangi Lifetime Achievement Award tonight for their extraordinary commitment to te reo and tikanga.

Sir Timoti Karetu, Dame Iritana Tāwhiwhirangi, Dr Huirangi Waikerepuru, Professor Wharehuia Milroy and Pou Temara saw their contributions to Māori culture in Aotearoa celebrated this evening. 

Sir Timoti Karetu

A career spanning decades has seen Sir Timoti Samuel Karetu, of Tuhoe and Ngāti Kahungunu, devote much of his life to the revitalisation, retention and integrity of te reo Māori.

Last year he was honoured for his work when he received his knighthood for his commitment to reviving and uplifting te reo Māori.

At the time he told Te Kāea reporters, “I'm still a bit startled but the main thing is to thank everyone, those who were also named and those who have supported me along my journey in order to receive this honour."

Support group and Te Panekiretanga teacher Leon Blake said Sir Karetu’s knighthood honoured “the different projects that he has lead such as kōhanga reo, the Maori Language Commission, Te Matatini and Panekiretanga.”

Sir Karetu told Māori Television his reason for committing his professional life to revitalising the language came from his belief that if you say you are Māori, you must learn the language.

“Many years ago, a well-known Māori said that if you don't know how to speak te reo Māori, you are not Māori. I agreed with those words that were spoken at that time.”

Dame Iritana Tāwhiwhirangi

Dame Iritana Tawhiwhirangi was recognised tonight for her work as an advocate of Māori language education and the founder of the Kōhanga Reo movement.

A major highlight of hers was in 2009 when she was made a dame of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to Māori education.

On receiving the honour she recounted to media how Māori elders gathered in Wellington nearly 30 years earlier to "take responsibility for the language themselves" and initiate the Kōhanga Reo movement.

The initiative was in response to growing concern among Māori elders about the decline in the use of te reo. By the 1980s fewer than five per cent of Māori schoolchildren could speak the language fluently.

In a recent interview with Te Kāea, Dame Iritana Tawhiwhirangi said it takes a village to raise a child.

"From a Māori perspective we think about the wider whānau community, that's the Māori world. The responsibility of the child is not solely the parents but also the grandparents and extended family.”

Dr Huirangi Eruera Waikerepuru

Dr Waikerepuru has been pivotal in the revitalisation and official recognition of te reo Māori in Aotearoa, especially in the Taranaki region.

He was involved in bringing claims before the Waitangi Tribunal which led to the recognition of Māori as an official language and the founding of iwi radio and Māori Television.

He was instrumental in the establishment of te reo o Taranaki, which has played a leading role in revitalising Taranaki dialect, and was also active in the setup of iwi radio station Te Korimako o Taranaki.

Highlights of his were when he received an honorary doctorate from Waikato University in 1995 and was made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2014.

Professor Wharehuia Milroy

Professor Milroy has been widely acknowledged for his commitment to the revitalisation and regeneration of te reo and tikanga Māori.

A respected academic at Waikato University, Professor Milroy played a leading role in forging a model for teaching Māori which was followed by many other tertiary institutions.  

He has been a member of the Waitangi Tribunal, sitting on treaty claims including the Ngāti Whātua and Wairarapa claims.

He has also been a trustee on Te Kohanga Reo National Trust and a member of the New Zealand Geographic Board, providing a Māori perspective on topics involving the geography of New Zealand.

Professor Milroy was made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to the Maori Language in 2012.

Professor Pou Temara

Pou Temara is a Professor of Reo and Tikanga at Waikato University, and an authority in Māori language, ancient karakia, kapa haka and whaikōrero.

He is one of three directors of Te Panekiretanga o Te Reo, the Institute of Excellence in the Māori Language.

Professor Temara was appointed to the Waitangi Tribunal in 2008 and last year he received the lifetime achievement award at the Māori Language Awards.

At the time, Reo exponent Paraone Gloyne told Te Kāea it was, “a huge honor for Pou who’s been a great example for our generation and at his age, he’s still working.”

Reo advocate for Ngāti Kahungunu Jeremy Tātere Macleod also said, “Pou Temara has inspired me so much in education.”

Temara was instrumental in the creation of the first Māori language series on Television New Zealand, appearing as the presenter for Kōrero Mai. He also appears in many Waka Huia series as an expert commentator on historical affairs.

He is Chairperson of the Repatriation Advisory Panel to Te Papa Museum, and was made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for his services to Māori and Education in 2016.