Sign language dream's to be on Te Taitokerau marae

By Taroi Black

One man's dream to have a reo Māori sign language interpreter on marae in the North is closer to becoming a reality.

Eddie Hokianga (Ngāti Hine, Ngāti Kahungunu) took action within his own rohe, Te Tai Tokerau, to establish a centre that aims to have Māori sign language interpreters on marae.

“We need interpreter who are Māori to support Māori deaf people in those Māori situations,” Eddie says.  

Eddie, who the Trust is named after, wants to see more fluent reo Māori speakers to learn sign language and Māori sign.

“In the Māori world, there's a lot of content that deaf people don't access so it's important to have Māori signs.”

The breakthrough initiative is part of Eddie's program Te Rōpū Tangata Turi o Te Tai Tokerau to ensure that Māori sign language interpreters are part of Māori wānanga and marae settings.

“Māori deaf people don't understand what's happening because of oral te reo Māori and for a long time we've sat there and not understand it. We can see the visuals and we can see the whare visual detail. So to access that oratory we need tri-lingual interpreters to understand the culture.”

Te Reo Māori Cultural Advisor Shaquille Shortland says, “It is rather sad to see our people not understand what our deaf community go through and the barriers for the wider community not able to converse with our sign language people.”

Attending a tri-lingual class in both Māori and English with Eddie's Trust is more affordable than your usual sign language tutorial.

The launch coincided with the release of local kiwi birds where the deaf community were given the opportunity to name one of them 'Piki Ake'.