Te Wiki o te Reo Māori Guest Editor Ruth Smith

Te Wiki o te Reo Māori — on the world stage
Nā Ruth Smith (Te Aitanga-a-Mahaki, Ngāti Porou, Rongowhakaata, Ngāti Kahungunu)

To our beloved readers, my voice stretches across the distant oceans traveling to you in our sacred motherland to greet and acknowledge you all — welcome to our new editorial celebrating the oldest and indigenous language of our country, Te Reo Māori.

I acknowledge all those who have passed on in the recent days and months of the year that has been — those who have returned to the Heavens to shine as guiding stars for us all, I bid you farewell.

Coming back to the realm of the living, I acknowledge all who are here and warmly invite you to join us in celebrating this very special week, a week dedicated to celebrating Te Reo Māori!

It is my absolute pleasure to be invited back as a guest editor this week to help curate and review some of our newest reading gems with you all. We are also delighted to have some special guest reviewers this week who have kindly shared their insights and perspectives on some of the latest publications that have been released in English and Māori.

Listen to te reo Māori that harkens youAnd uphold it’s sacred teachings

My mind reaches back to lyrics composed by renowned songwriter Tuini Ngawai, and her famous and beloved waiata ‘Whakarongo’.  Although it has been some years since it was first penned, the spirit of this lyric still inspires generations and becomes more and more significant and relevant to enthusiasts of the language. In her song, Tuini beckons all to hear and feel the beauty of te reo Māori.

An extension to this lyric advises:

Spread the language to the world!Sing it to the Heavens!Share it with all mankind!

And it is at this point that my reflections for te reo Māori begin.

Over the last three weeks I have been fortunate enough to travel to distant paradises to meet with language warriors and dear friends from the indigenous nations of Canada, The Americas and Hawai’i as part of a traveling party lead by Sir Tīmoti Kāretu, alongside with graduates of Te Panekiretanga o Te Reo Māori: The Institute for Excellence in the Māori Language that was disestablished in 2019. These tours began in the early 2000s and occurred biennially, with the purpose of initiating and cultivating relationships with our native relatives all over the world to build a community of language revitalizers to mutually share, inspire, encourage and teach each other about language and cultural revitalization.

In my travels accompanying Sir Tīmoti and the wider touring party I have often reflected on what a fantasy it seemed like traveling around the world, not only to promote my own native language but to encourage others to do the same too, because our language, the Māori language is so revered and respected by others outside of Aotearoa-New Zealand. Even though our language is genealogically considered a younger sibling language to their own, our native relatives' level of respect for our language and the way they use it as an example to revitalize their own is humbling to say the very least.

It is no secret that the Māori language has been revived from the virtual brink of extinction over the last 50 years as a result of colonisation. This is something that we feel deeply and share with our native relatives. Just last week, Aotearoa-New Zealanders were exposed to damaging rhetoric regarding the validity of Maori’s indigeneity to our beautiful country. It is most unfortunate that the efforts of so many are diminished by some misplaced perceptions. Even given this, it is heartening to see many Aotearoa-New Zealanders realising an old proverb ‘he iti pā marangai ka tū te pāhokahoka’, which roughly translates to every cloud has a silver lining. The silver lining here is that despite these kinds of attacks, Aotearoa-New Zealanders have been embracing te reo Māori in spaces where it has never been before — not just Māori spaces, but Pākehā space and Tauiwi spaces as well. The tide has turned and Aotearoa-New Zealanders has been supporting the growth of the language irrespective of their cultural background. Tuini’s aspiration has turned into a prophecy that we are manisfesting!

Spread the language to the world!Sing it to the Heavens!Share it with all mankind!

It is at this juncture that I would like to acknowledge the many businesses, organisations, social groups, communities and families who are taking the opportunity to celebrate Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori and contribute a small piece of mauri to the cause, so that we may ensure that te reo Māori resounds in it’s indigenous lands for many years to come. It couldn’t be done without you all!

I would also like to give a special thanks to my dear friends here at Kete! Thank you for your bravery and commitment! Thank you for your collaboration this week to ensure that te reo Māori endures for many more generations to come.

I’d like to conclude my contribution with an extension of Tuini’s composition.

Listen to te reo Māori that harkens you

And uphold it’s sacred teachings

To the people of Aotearoa-New Zealand - rise and stand together!

To the people of Aotearoa-New Zealand - hold fast to the language!

To the people of Aotearoa-New Zealand - unite to speak the language

For it is a treasure for us all

It is sustenance for us all

This is the Aotearoa-New Zealand that I dream of.

I leave these words as a gift for future generations who are yet to come.

With love, 

Ruth — an indigenous woman of this land.