Māori language teacher with super abilities

By Tumamao Harawira

Te Matakahi o Ngāti Whātua graduate Tūraukawa Bartlett has only been learning te reo Māori for seven years, and in that short amount of time, has risen to be one of the premier speakers of his people.

Bartlett, who runs online tutorials as part of the te reo Māori strategy of Ngāti Whātua, is also autistic.

It is said special needs means special abilities - super abilities.

"I am autistic, I have Asperger's. But my particular condition doesn't reflect the prognosis."

"Because one of the great benefits of the condition is the absolute drive a person who has autism brings to the things he wants to achieve."

From Te Ataarangi student to the tutor of the Tuakiri total immersion class run by Ngāti Whātua in the space of seven years is some achievement. Bartlett runs online tutorials that highlight the scope of his transformation.

"All the resources are given to the students, including tutorials on grammar and Māori language processes in the belief that students will gain a deeper understanding of the language."

'One of those special ones'

Tūraukawa is a graduate of Te Matakahi o Ngāti Whātua, an initiative designed to revitalise pae kōrero and pae karanga within the iwi. Joe Pīhema, who is one of the tutors of Te Matakahi, and a former teacher of Tuakiri, says they recognised the gifted Tūraukawa early on.

"A major focus of ours in recent years is developing leaders who would help in the revitalisation of the language. Bartlett is one of those special ones."

Kākahuria Te Whare is the name of the language strategy of Ngāti Whātua, bringing together the two pillars of tikanga and reo under one roof, and Pīhema says it is Ngāti Whātua who pays for their strategy.

"So we aren't reliant on government funding. The responsibility rests on the shoulders of Ngāti Whātua."

Bartlett has words of advice for those who have a hunger to learn te reo Māori.

"Whakamaraetia tō ao. Ahakoa ko hea koe haere atu ai, kōrerotia te reo. Whāia ngā hoa, ngā wāhi, ā, ko reira puta atu ai te reo."
Make your world a marae. Wherever you go, speak the language. Find like-minded people and environments that are conducive to the language.