New generation leads revitalisation of Ngāti Whātua reo

By Mānia Clarke-Mamanu

A young group of reo exponents from Ngāti Whātua is leading the way in revitalising the number of Māori speakers among their tribe.  This comes after their own research showed their native speakers were in dire straits.

Joe Pihema is one of a few Māori speakers of Ngāti Whātua descent. His mission is to turn those stats around.

“It (Māori language) wasn't very good or strong. The language was weak, with only a few speaking Māori here in our home.”

He can't do it alone, so a group of relatives are by his side, helping him lead the way.

Māori language teacher Te Kurataioho Kapea from Ngāti Whātua says, “Our language is struggling at the moment. I think about our families back home in Kaipara. Only a few know how to speak Māori and only a few are wanting to learn.”

A survey done by Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei showed te reo Māori was spoken in only 2% of the homes. This was one of the reasons they began wānanga reo three years ago.

Pihema says, “It's grown, grown through the desire and hunger of our youth to learn our treasured language. Thank goodness for them. We've been running a learning programme for three years now, and we've had huge support from our board.”

Kapea says, “I was taken back to my older kin who still live back home. They have worked hard to learn the language in recent years. These people are the teachers at the kura kaupapa back home. They run the Māori language classes and the kura kaupapa, which is called Ngāringa o Matariki in Oruawharo.”

This weekend, the second Ngāti Whātua reo wānanga will be held here at Ōrākei Marae, with 130 members registered to attend.