Ngāti Raukawa descendant and veteran scholar Professor Whatarangi Winiata has been honoured with the Lifetime Achievement Award at this years National Māori Language Awards, for his contribution in the revitalisation of te reo over 50 years.
Whatarangi Winiata is a man of few words, who is reluctant to speak about his achievements.
“He remembers those who supported his vision and strategies from the start,” says Whatarangi’s son, Pakeke.
“He believes they are the ones who should be celebrated, not himself.”
In 1975 Winiata pioneered the first reo strategy Generation 2000 to revitalise the language that was not being spoken in the Kāpiti district, including the streets of Ōtaki.
“One, to return te reo as the first language for his whānau, second among his extended relations, third his people and all people fourth,” said Pakeke.
In the 1980s, 1990s he was among the movers and shakers in the political battle to save the language, that led to the establishment of the Māori Language Commission and Māori language radio.
However, for Whatarangi, fostering the language at home is the key to ensuring its survival.
“His belief is I must ensure that my children speak Māori better than me.”
“So all the other strategies still need to be pursued, but more importantly, for his children to speak more fluently than him.”
Today Ōtaki is bilingual with 50 of homes that speak Māori as a result of his efforts.