Te Rangiura o Wairarapa keeping language alive

By Aroha Mane

Wairarapa is set to host the Ngāti Kahunungu senior kapa haka regionals this coming weekend. One group competing in the event, Te Rangiura o Wairarapa, are aiming to fulfil a prophecy about the revival of the Māori language.

This year’s competition will be hosted in Whakaoriori (Masterton), within the boundaries of Ngāti Kahungunu which incorporates the areas in which the Tākitimu waka landed.

Te Korou Whangataua is one of the group's leaders. He says they are focused on keeping the language alive.

"We endeavour to fulfil the prophecy of our ancestor Pāora Pōtangaroa who said, 'The Māori language will die here in Wairarapa but our grandchildren will revive it again.' This is what we hope to achieve," he says.

"In regards to our group’s name, it comes from the proverbial saying used by our school, 'Ruia te taitea, kohia te rangiura.' That proverb means to choose your friends wisely, to not succumb to negativity but rather to embrace positivity."

Whangataua is supported in the group by partner Juneea Amohia Silbery.

"Te Korou is my partner and he is my connection to this group. I’m not from the Wairarapa region, I’m of Te Rarawa, Maniapoto and Ngāi Tahu descent," she says.

Another leader is Irihāpeti Roberts.

"I am the female leader of Te Rangiura o Wairarapa this year. I’m a part of the group’s tutorship, I’m a supporter as well," she says. 

Whangataua says the majority of the group are past students of Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Wairarapa.

"We are Te Rangiura o Wairarapa. Most of us are graduates from the fully immersed Māori language school, Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Wairarapa. We are Kahungunu, we’re also of Rangitāne those of us that live here in Te Wairarapa."

He says the group is endeavouring to grow the language and culture in the area. 

"My partner, my sister, this group and I are using this space as a platform to revitalise the language as a platform to revive our traditions and to reinvigorate Māori culture in a region impoverished immensely of the traditional Māori world." 

Whangataua says, "One of the issues our people and the Rangitāne leadership have actively engaged in is the government’s return of the area known as Te Tapere-nui-a-Whātonga."

Roberts says the return of this land cannot fully redress all the harm that was done.  

"Rangitāne have come to celebrate the return of these lands to us. This is but a mere sentiment relative to the suffering my ancestors experienced. The confiscation of our beloved lands, the way in which our traditions were manipulated and how our language was suppressed." 

Silbery says Te Rangiura o Wairarapa is special to her.

"Our Wairarapa-ness is what makes this group unique within Ngāti Kahungunu. Bearing all aspects of Wairarapa, including the origins of Kauwae Runga and Kauwae Raro," she says.

Whangataua encourages whānau to join them for the regionals.

"Come one, come all our people, come and join us here at 'The Eye of the Fish' in Wairarapa, to your kin that cordially welcome you all," he says.

"That’s the primary purpose of why this group was established. It’s based on three principles; the first is our language, the second is Te Aho Mātua and the third is our Wairarapa-ness."