Friday March 23, 2018   Last updated 04:51AM

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Awakening Sleeping Tongues

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Awakening Sleeping Tongues

We Maori gotta be kinder to each other, treat each other more respectfully. It saddens me to hear that some of our most cherished and honourable Pakeke are belittled for not being matatau te reo Maori. Worse still told they are less Maori than fluent speakers.

Let’s not forget, we’re survivors of colonisation. We had war raged upon us. The best way to eradicate a people or assimilate a race is to eliminate the language confiscate land and repudiate spiritual beliefs. The greatest weapon of colonisation though is internalised denigration. Stripping away the mana and integrity of individuals communities and peoples, so that self-deprecation becomes entrenched in the soul of the survivor. The victim as perpetrator is born, victim bashing victim at will or randomly and the cycle of colonisation continues.

Belittling our Pakeke, our Mama and Papa, for not speaking te reo fluently or competently is blatant colonialism internalised. What else can it be? That we can be derisive of our elders the very ones born to those fluent speakers beaten for uttering our mother-tongue at School. The same generation of elders that me and my age-group marched beside in 1975 Land hikoi. This is the same mob that camped out at Pakaitore, Takaparawha, fought for the Raglan Golf Course. This is the same generation that presented the 1972 Maori Language Petition to Parliament, the same mob who in 1992 took the Crown to the Privy Council in England which ended up establishing Te Māngai Pāho and Te Taura Whiri. We have so much to thank this generation for, our Pakeke who fought so their children and our mokopuna do not feel less Maori because they are denied their Mother-tongue.

‘Awakening Sleeping Tongues’ - is a phrase used by some first nation peoples in Australia to explain their te reo revitalisation strategy. Such a wonderful turn of phrase. It paints pictures of whispering emotions chattering evoking themselves to rise up. Much nicer than our language strategy catch cry. Te Mataawai talks about ‘right-shifting’ and ‘zero-to-hero’ such bland bureaucratic static-noise blaah blaah. It lacks heart, soul it’s devoid of power. I doubt Maori would rise up and hikoi to the mantra ‘right shift, right shift, be a zero to a hero!’ Hardly aspirational or inspirational. Perhaps that’s why only 21 % of all Māori and around 3 % of all people living in Aotearoa korero te reo? It also explains why less than 100 people were in attendance at the passing of Te Mataawai Language Bill in Parliament in April.

I was a National MP when Hon Pita Sharples first presented Te Mataawai in 2014. So I thought I would attend the 3rd reading and passing in April this year. Four National MP’s spoke in favour of Te Mataawai. Hon Hekia Parata, and List MP’s Joanne Hayes Ngati Porou, Nuk Korako Kai Tahu and Jono Naylor who is Pakeha and from Palmerston North. I was really proud of Hekia, Joanne and Nuk. All three of them second language learners, took their call entirely in te reo. What saddened me was the sniggering from some Maori in the gallery. The guffawing was aimed at Nuk and Joanne, whose korero was not as fluid or enunciated as Hekia or Labour’s Nanaia Mahuta. The fact these two took calls in te reo is surely a ‘right-shift’. They took a call in te reo about te reo in Parliament are they not heroes? Why then would Nuk and Joanne be so disrespected? Jono Naylor spoke in Pakeha but had humorous anecdotes that showed genuine support of the Bill. The same people who sniggered at Nuk and Joanne applauded Jono Naylor. Why derision for those denied their language but applause for a Pakeha?

The Hui on TV3 had Paraone Gloyne expressing no patience for those with ‘excuses’ preventing them from learning te reo. I had a giggle, I felt he was speaking directly to me, him a grumpy Uncle. I wasn’t offended. Paraone’s argument; if you have the passion and the will you find the way regardless the obstacles. That’s ‘boot-straps’ thinking. Political ideologists advocate it, to lower socio-economic communities; that will-power as an almost single factor can get you out of bad and into better. But reality is more real than rhetoric especially if you’re a single mama juggling child care or a mature tauira with learning issues. Neither of which Paraone is or have.

However, like our beautiful Tariana Turia, I’ve been talked-at (twice), for not being matatau te reo Maori. It made me feel uncomfortable, because I felt it to be true. The remarks were I believe an indictment at what Paraone highlights my laziness to learn. It did not make me feel less Maori. My whakapapa is too visible, deep and known, it’s undeniable. My features are very Maori; my black hair, full lips and nose I’m often told are replica of those of my Ngati Porou Whanau-a-Apanui Nanny. Maori I most definitely am.

But no Maori should be made to feel less than their whole being. We are survivors we are not victims-as-colonial perpetrators.

We must constantly remind ourselves of our journey and who walked that road and what they sacrificed so that we can talk our Mother tongue. Those still on their language journey are not the enemy. Show respect.

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