Me Whakanui 2000 Tau o Te Reo Māori

Ngā Tamatoa at Waitangi 1972 (John Miller photo) left Donna Awatere, Tame Iti, Taura Eruera, Hana Te Hemara, Timi Maipi, Roimata Kirikiri seated.

We celebrate the 2000 year survival of Te Reo Māori and 50 years of the Reo Petition.

50 Tau- Te Petihana Reo 1972

Te Huinga Rangatahi – Māori University Students Association, Te Reo Māori Society and Ngā Tamatoa were key organisations who were active in promoting and the delivery of Te Reo Māori petition in 1972. They called for Te Reo Māori to be taught in primary schools.

Ngā Tamatoa celebrate Hana Te Hemara this year in Taranaki, for her beauty, her drive and persistence in the Reo Māori petition 50 years ago. Hana took the petition to marae, hui, and travelled the length and breadth of the country as well as overseas conferences to gather signatures.
“ If we can save Lake Manapori, why can’t we save the language that gives us our unique identity… We stopped at 30,000 signatures and on 14 September 1972, our kaumatua from Ngāti Toa and Ngāti Raukawa, Uenuku Rene , presented our petition to the National Government.”

Hana and Ngā Tamatoa members often encountered negative comments from Māori who felt Te Reo Māori was too late to recover. Hana was also belittled by Māori speakers who said “women should know their place” or that Ngā Tamatoa were” breaking tikanga” in discussing kaupapa Māori in the public space. I witnessed this stunning well dressed woman with long black hair Hana, crying in my mother n law’s kitchen , about Māori being sceptical of Te Reo ever being taught in schools or that Te Reo was destined for Ariki Māori only. Her optimism in the kaupapa and the value of Te Reo kept her going.

Mohammed Ali himself was so taken by Hana’s eloquence in describing the struggle of Maōri people, he named one of his daughters Hana.

Ko Te Reo Te Mauri o Te Mana Māori”

The celebration of Sept 14, Te Reo Petihana 1972 is important for mokopuna Māori to know that our kaumātua , kuia and young organised for Te Reo to be normalised and taught in our kura. Sir James Henare’s kōrero “ Ko Te Reo Te Mauri o Te Mana Māori”

succinctly summarises the whole purpose of saving Te Reo.

Sir Graham and Lady Emily mortgaged their farm several times to fund legal costs to stop the State Owned Enterprise (SOE) Bill in 1986-1987. The Appeal Court ruled the principles of the Treaty  of Waitangi over-rode anything else in the SOE  Act. By this decision the Treaty was elevated to  great constitutional importance. 1992 NZ Māori Council went to the Court of Appeal and then to the Privy Council in London seeking recognition of Māori and their language as broadcasting assets were privatised. This case led directly to the establishment of Te Māngai Pāho the Māori broadcasting funding agency.

The Reo Petition coupled with the Waitangi Tribunal claim (Wai 11) led by Nga Kaiwhakapūmau i te Reo in 1984 , called for Te Reo Māori to be recognised as an official language of Aotearoa. Sir Graham and Lady Emily Latimer mortgaged their farm in 1986 to enable the Reo Case to be heard at the Privy Council in London. The Privy Council recognised Te Reo as a taonga

Six Generations of Lost Reo Potential

In the 120 years after the 1867 Native Schools Act, until the 1987 Māori Language Act was passed- 6 successive generations of Māori lost touch with their mother language. There are now 3 official languages of Aotearoa: Te Reo Māori, English and NZ sign language – as the “ native language of Deaf New Zealanders.”

If we look back into our history , Te Reo Māori has been a consistent political casualty since the signing of Te Tiriti o Waitangi when successive governments chose to disempower the Māori text signed by their own representative Captain Hobson and the majority of Māori chiefs . Instead the English version was entrenched as the official Treaty for 174 years to legitemise Crown rule. In 2014, Te Paparahi o Te Raki case (Wai 1040), the Waitangi Tribunal found “Ngāpuhi Nui Tonu never ceded sovereignty”. This unwanted outcome now leads to the national question of co-governance.

Tame Iti – Ngā Tamatoa . When he was young he was made to write lines at kura, “I will not speak Māori.” Tame has listed Tamatoa members and some of the Reo pioneers in the recent 50 years.


In the 70s, young Māori were familiar with the impact of racism in housing, schooling and jobs. We were surrounded by a mainstream culture that said forget about being a Māori and Te Reo Māori won’t pay your bills. Luckily , we were also influenced by the audaciousness of Mohammed Ali and the

Black is Beautiful phenomenon . Some junior students at our school formed a little Otara branch of the Polynesian Panthers. Ngā Tamatoa had come onto the scene, as articulate , outspoken university students, who asserted The Treaty of Waitangi was not honoured, Māori control over Māori issues, and the necessary revival of Te Reo Māori.

Te Petihana Reo in 1972 was significant in that it was promoted by young, urban Māori – while amongst the rōpu only a few had Te Reo Māori. Nga Tamatoa , Te Reo Māori Society and Te Huinga Rangatahi were active in circulating the petition in schools and throughout Aotearoa. The petition called for Māori language to be taught in all primary schools and was signed by over 30,000 people.

Te Petihana Reo was launched before the era of emails, cellphones , facebook, twitter and instagram. Ngā Tamatoa called on many of the groups they were actively involved with to help. Polynesian Panthers and Citizens Association for Racial Equality (CARE) took copies of the petition around their neighbourhoods. Many supporters wanted to help Māori claw back some of the injustices that Māori had faced.

Two former seniors of Hillary College, Rawiri Paratene and Morehu McDonald delivered blank petitions for students to collect signatures . They also had posters to hang up around our school advertising September 14 as Māori Language Day- the main slogans were : “Akona Te Reo Māori” and “Korero Māori”.

Tom Poata’s article -”there’s a new dawn arising`’ from the Māori organisation of Human Rights newsletter and Aunty Sāna Murray wrote a little mihi -inspired me to address the school assembly on September 14 to mark the occasion- the student who had not enrolled in Te Reo class. Margaret Thatcher, then British Minister of Education , was in the audience. Afterwards she said to me “ Oh we have Welsh people saying the same thing ”. Later that day, 3 of us: Awhina Kemp, Roberta … and myself went to the Otara Shopping Centre with placards “Te Rā o Te Reo Māori” and we sang waiata Māori we had learnt from our Polynesian Club to mark the occasion.

When I attended university I vowed to learn Te Reo Māori and had to do a whole pre-requisite learner’s course. This was before Atārangi and Reo Rumaki- it was painfully slow.

1995 Piripi Haami , Ken Mair and two friends interrupt TV 1 News. The outcome Te Karere extends from 10 to 30 minutes
Naida Glavish, Tolls operator started a national debate using the term ” Kia ora”.

Te Reo Māori is a Successful Industry
Te Reo Māori is now a successful industry. Applicants with great skills and Reo have a greater chance of gaining employment in some businesses than those without. Kura Kaupapa would prefer to employ registered kaiako or raukura (graduates) who have been raised within Te Aho Matua schooling. Books in many dialects have to be written. Broadcasting and Government departments have created roles for directors, producers, announcers, policy analysts , researchers and librarians.

The momentum of grassroots whānau organisations has organically grown 434 Kohanga Reo, 66 Kura Kaupapa, 39 Kura a Iwi, 3 Wānanga Māori, 21 Iwi Māori Radio and 1 Whakaata Māori. Māori are 17% of the population.

Ka Whawhai Tonu Mātou

The struggle is not over, as each organisation alleges the Crown has underfunded Kaupapa Māori education and still tends to try and assimilate successful Kaupapa Māori practice within an underperforming mainstream framework . We still have Kohanga Reo in the same 40 year old tin sheds , unequal pay parity and antiquated email addresses. Children in kura kaupapa Māori waiting lists are enrolling in mainstream education because Ministry of Education are resistant to respond to growing demands.

Tohu o Ngā Kura a Iwi
Te Aho Matua- tohu o Te Tuapapa o Ngā Kura Kaupapa Māori

Planning For The Next 30 years
In Te Hiku o Te Ika, 15% of the student population is in Kaupapa Maori schooling- but there is no resourcing to support inter-collegial networking between Kohanga Reo and Kura Reo Māori. MOE comes up with good plans that don’t suit us and ignore solutions we propose. We want to plan for the next 30 years and to cater for the children and whānau we currently turn away as we do not have staffing, classrooms and capacity to enrol. Whānau are returning to Tai Tokerau from the cities as urban living costs soar. I predict another 8 kura kaupapa are needed in Tai Tokerau within the next 5 years $30-50 million budget prediction. Given the Green School was allocated $11.7 million- kkm are still a reasonable proposition.

Te Matakahuki , an alliance of Kohanga Reo, Kura Kaupapa, Kura a Iwi and Wānanga Māori have signalled the desire to grow more Kaupapa Māori education sites without the brakes being applied and with parity.

Te Matakahuki have consistently advised the Deputy Minister of Education they do not support the Pae Roa reforms. Instead they call for an independent Kaupapa Māori statutory authority and legislation to protect the integrity of Kaupapa Reo Māori education.

The kaha and survival of Te Reo still requires the community drive of the people. Kapa haka, Manu Kōrero, Waiata Reo , Reo Māori news broadcasts and Reo Māori business platforms are popular forum for the uplifting and continuity of Te Reo.

There is still a determination to build Īwi and hapu capacity for Reo and Tikanga Māori .

Ngā Tamatoa wish to celebrate all its members who have made personal commitments to strengthen Te Reo Māori in their own whānau and to build capacity in Kaupapa Māori ventures.