Kī-ō-Rahi used to normalise Māori culture

By Regan Paranihi

Ara Institute of Canterbury is using Kī-ō-Rahi, a traditional Māori sport, to incorporate the use of te reo Māori, Māori legends and fitness amongst youth in the South Island.

Heperi Harris, manager of Te Puna Wānaka at Ara, based his master's research on examining how the combination of te reo, Māori legends and fitness makes Kī-ō-Rahi an effective teaching tool.

"The ultimate goal for me was to look at why people participate and to use that to increase participation.  The big reasons were that it was fun, but also that there was an opportunity to practice te reo.  That's when a light bulb went off in my head."

Harris introduced a reo component into the sports training programme while he was tutoring at the institution as well as teaching his students skills and rules of Māori games.

“My role was teaching the game to our TOA sports students, who then went out to schools and taught the kids the rules, along with some sports terms in te reo.  After the first year of doing that, a real demand developed in the schools for us to come and share our knowledge."

Harris established the Canterbury Secondary Schools Kī-ō-Rahi Tournament in 2012, where only eight teams competed.

The competition has grown in the last six years with twenty teams now in the competition.

"There's some rockstar teachers in the schools who are driving it, and now it's not just te reo teachers, we have good buy-in from the P.E. departments too.  A couple of teachers have actually told me that it's been a way to keep kids engaged and in school."

As part of Ara's events programme celebrating Māori Language Week (10-16 September 2018) students and staff can give Kī-ō-rahi a go at the Woolston campus and Christchurch City Campus.

"There's a role for everyone, as long as you can move, well, then you can participate in the game."