KO TE REO TE MAURI 0 TE MANA MĀORI
"English is the language of today. Why isolate
people with Māori tungā [sic] and te reo?"
The above quote is taken from the results of a survey
recently conducted by the Library & Information Association New Zealand, Aotearoa
Te Rau Herenga o Aotearoa.(1) The comment is indicative of an attitude held
by a large minority of librarians (23%), and is indeed, possibly a view held
by many New Zealanders generally. This article seeks to address the issue of
ambivalence and hostility toward the Māori language by tracing its history
from the time of colonisation through to the present day. It also looks at why
librarians in particular have a professional obligation to support the language's
continued development and use.
As a nation we have always acknowledged Māori
culture as part of our heritage. From New Zealand's Coat of Arms to the haka
performed by the All Blacks, Māoritanga is part of New Zealand.(2) Central
to any cultural existence is the oral tradition, captured in song, poetry and
story. Language is central to the individual and groups identity, being the
principal medium by which knowledge, ideas and cultural values are transmitted.
During the colonial era many settlers were bilingual and missionary instruction
was given in the Māori language. The Bible and prayer book were translated into
Māori. Governor Grey's book Māori Myths and Legends written in Māori was read
by large numbers of settlers. Church authorities, who were mainly Pakeha, recorded
their proceedings in Māori and when a Westminster-style government was established
after 1852, its proceedings were recorded both in Māori and English.
At the time of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, Māori was still
the dominant language in the social, commercial and political arenas. However,
by the 1850s the numbers of settlers increased mārkedly. The control of education
affairs passed from Māori and missionary hands to the colonial government and
the missionary run schools were required to teach all instruction in English.
Māori language and culture disappeared from the school environment and curriculum
and it was not until the 1930s that some aspects reappeared.
Later, in the 1940s and 1950s social forces within Māori communities were also
diminishing the viability of the language. Factors included Māori urban migration
after the second world war, the dominance of English language broadcasting through
diverse communications media and the belief held by many Māori parents that
English was going to be more beneficial for their children.
TREATY OF WAITANGI
On 6 February 1840, the Treaty of Waitangi was
signed between Queen Victoria's British Government and Māori chiefs. The Treaty
allowed the Crown to establish government over the country while guaranteeing
Māori sovereignty over their lands and possessions. Māori were also accorded
the rights of British citizenship. The Treaty is seen as the founding document
for this country that formalised an agreement between a colonial minority (Crown)
and a native majority (Māori).
The link between the Treaty and te reo Māori was highlighted in 1985 when
a case was brought before the Waitangi Tribunal. Ngā Kaiwhakapūmau
i Te Reo (Inc.) and Huirangi Waikerepuru in their submission to the Tribunal
deemed that the Treaty's principles and broad objectives would not be achieved
if there was not a recognised place for the language of one of the partners
in the Treaty.(3) In their view, the place of the language in the life of the
nation was indicative of the place of the people.
The Crown's response to this was the designation of the Māori language as an
official language in 1987. It also established a Commission for the Māori Language
(Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori), that would advise, monitor and promote the
Māori language, and issue certificates of competency to interpreters.
Article 2 of the Māori version of the Treaty of Waitangi states that the Crown
guarantees to Māori te tino rangatiratanga o ō rātou taonga katoa (the full
chieftainship of all their possessions). The Waitangi Tribunal's declaration
that the term taonga (possessions) included the Māori language was adopted by
Parliament in the preamble to the Māori Language Act 1987.
The dominance of the English language has seen the use of the Māori language
diminish. However, by the 1970s Māori, conscious of the implications of the
decline of the language, were beginning to react in positive and innovative
The past two decades have seen the renaissance of Māori culture and language,
and a renewed call from the Māori world for the language to be recognised in
the wider New Zealand context.
For a language to continue to be spoken naturally,
it must have a core of native speakers, ie. people who speak it as their first
language. It is estimāted that today only 50,000 people are fluent speakers
of Māori; that is, 1.5% of the total population, or 12% of the Māori
This figure may appear healthy in comparison with many of the languages spoken
throughout the world, particularly those of other colonised indigenous minorities.
However, the true state of the Māori language becomes clearer when one realises
that the majority of these 50,000 speakers are middle-aged or older. The need
to develop Māori language programmes and provide appropriate resources is therefore
vital for the survival and maintenance of the language.
In 1977 the first bilingual school was set up in Ruatoki, in the Bay of Plenty.
There were three more in 1980 and by 1987 nine were established. In the 1990's
approximately 171 schools were catering for over 8000 students. At the same
time the Te Ataarangi movement led by Katarina Mātaira and the late Ngoi Pēwhairangi
introduced a new method to the teaching of Māori language.
One of the most significant and successful Māori language initiatives, the Kohanga
Reo movement, gained momentum in the early 1980's. This programme, based on
the total immersion of Māori children in Māori language, culture and values
from birth, was made available through early childhood whānau centres. In 1981,
the first kohanga reo began at Pukeatua. One year later, 107 were established
and by 1988 over 500 were providing education for approximātely 8000 (ie. 15%)
of Māori children under five. At the end of 1990, 616 had been established
with a projected figure that almost 20,000 children would have participated
in kohanga reo by the end of 1995.
The specific Māori learning style developed in kohanga reo was then extended
to primāry education in the form of Kura Kaupapa Māori. This was as
a direct response from Māori who were committed to the survival of Māori
language and saw mainstream primāry schools as unsuitable to the needs
of kohanga reo graduates. The aim is to produce bilingual students who achieve
an equally high competence and proficiency in English and Māori.(5)
The first kura, Hoani Waititi, was established in 1985, operating initially
with no Government funding. In 1993, 23 state-funded kura were operating with
11 private kura set up but awaiting approval for state funding. Fourteen more
are currently in the process of being established.(6) The National Government,
in its budget projections for 1995, allocated a further $12 million to establish
more kura kaupapa.
Kura Kaupapa Māori and Te Kohanga Reo initiatives are key factors in the revitalisation
of the Māori language. Along with Te Ataarangi and Whare Wānanga (Universities)
they are attempting to reverse a trend which has seen te reo Māori move perilously
close to extinction. However, lack of written material and teacher resources
combined with difficulties in finding the available resources continue to undermine
the full potential for development.
TE REO MĀORI AND NEW
The library profession in New Zealand has long
acknowledged the need to address the specific information resource requirements
of Māori.(7) However, it is mainly in the last decade that te reo Māori
has been recognised as an important component of these needs. This recognition
has largely come in response to trends in Māori education as outlined above,
as well as the large influx of researchers working with Māori language
materials in pursuit of Waitangi Tribunal claims.
As the preeminent professional body for librarians and information workers,
the Library & Information Association New Zealand, Aotearoa Te Rau Herenga o
Aotearoa (LIANZA), has endeavoured to provide guidance for its members in the
area of bicultural development and services for Māori. This guidance has gained
momentum over the last five years in particular, and is evident at annual conferences,
in the professional literature, in special projects and in the changing rules
and structure of the Association itself.
The Association's manual on Public Library Standards is currently being redrafted
and is expected to provide more explicit guidance to members regarding commitments
to the Treaty of Waitangi and services for Māori clients. A research project,
Te Ara Tika 2, is also currently underway to examine the information resource
needs of Māori clients.
Previous research results indicate that although New Zealand librarians are
not all of one mind on the issues of biculturalism and services to Māori,
most of the Association's members are positive about the bicultural direction
LIANZA has taken.(8) In some cases library staff
are favourable towards bicultural development but lack the support and endorsement
of their funders or governing authorities. However, although most librarians
acknowledge the need for improvement, a significant minority are less positive
about the recent momentum of change, with some comments directed specifically
at the relevance of te reo Māori.(9)
THE RELEVANCE OF REO
There are compelling reasons why it is important
to recognise the relevance of te reo Māori. New Zealand is the only place
in the world where Māori is spoken as a native tongue. As such it is a
taonga (treasure) unique to this country that deserves protection and nourishment.
Linguistic diversity is a global reality that underpins cultural identity. The
enhancement of cultural identity through te reo does not entail cultural isolation.
As Māori Language Commissioner, Timoti Karetū states, "In time, the
progress of the Māori language will not only be an indicator or a renewal
of the Māori culture, it will also serve as a litmus test of Pakeha commitment
to a pluralistic society".(10)
The Treaty of Waitangi and legislation such as the amendments to the State Sector
Act (1988) and the Local Authorities Act (1974) oblige all agencies funded by
central and local government authorities to be cognisant of the aspirations
of Māori people. This is frequently reflected in mission statements, charters
and strategic plans. Many libraries, including those in the public and education
sectors are therefore in a position to draw on this as a foundation for change.
LABRARY SUPPORT FOR REO
New Zealand librarians face the challenge of helping
to create an environment that supports and nurtures the Māori language. This
challenge may be approached in a variety of ways, including:
the installation of bilingual signs
the provision of library promotional material in Māori for distribution among
the provision of quality Māori language resources
the adoption of Māori subject headings in catalogues and indexes
the appropriate care, description and promotion of Māori language heritage
material eg. manuscripts and newspapers
the employment of library staff with Māori language ability
Māori language training for library staff, especially basic pronunciation
Māori language displays
the use of Māori greetings
close liaison with Māori language clienteles, eg. kohanga, kura, local iwi,
the adoption of a bilingual name
the production of appropriate, user-friendly access tools to Māori language
materials eg. indexes, bibliographies, inventories and path finders
special Māori language activities eg. story-telling, waiata, book readings,
Te reo Māori has always been a precious and unique
ingredient of New Zealand culture. Its current decline in fluent speakers is
largely attributable to a prolonged period of damaging education and social
policies, as well as changing social dynamics such as urban migration.
Since the 1980s there has been a revitalisation of the language through initiatives
and events including Kohanga Reo, Te Ataarangi, Kura Kaupapa Māori, Te Taura
Whiri i te reo Māori and the Waitangi Tribunal claims process. However, the
critical mass of fluent speakers remains smāll and the future of te reo Māori
as a viable language of communication is not assured.
Librarians are well placed as educators and professionals to contribute towards
the creation of a more conducive Māori language environment. Many libraries
(eg. public libraries and school libraries) are funded by bodies, which have
a legislative obligation to be responsive to the needs of Māori. Although some
librarians are hampered by unsympathetic governing authorities, most are positive
towards bicultural development and appreciative of the directions taken by LIANZA.
A sizeable minority however, is yet to be convinced or impressed by bicultural
imperatives, including the need to support te reo Māori.
The nourishment of the Māori language is integral to the development of a positive
New Zealand cultural identity, based on partnership and diversity. Let's join
the momentum for change and work together for a positive future.
Tahuna te ururoa, kia tupu whakaritorito te tupu a te harakeke.
(Burn off the undergrowth so that new shoots of the flax bush grow)
1. Draft survey results report. LIANZA, 1995
2. Findings of the Waitangi Tribunal relating to Te Reo Māori and a claim lodged
by Huirangi Waikarepuru and Ngā Kaiwhakapūmau i Te Reo (Inc.), 1986
4. Waite, 1. Aoteareo, speaking for ourselves. Learning Media, 1992
5. The benefits of Kura Kaupapa Māori. Te Puni Kokiri, 1993
7. MacDonald, Tui. Te ara tika, Māori and libraries, 1993
9. Draft survey results report. LIANZA, 1995
10. The Dominion 2.6.95