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June 2, 2014 | by  | in Opinion VUWSA |
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Sonya Says

As a Pākehā New Zealander, I felt a bit apprehensive when deciding what to write about this week. I wanted to make sure that while putting forward my perspective, I straight-up acknowledged that I am still learning about the fullness of what a true Treaty partnership means. Many wrongdoings have occurred through Pākehā thinking they know what is best for Māori. Furthermore, I know that Victoria University, including VUWSA, has a long way to go before the Treaty is fully actioned in a way that makes a difference to the lives of tauira Māori.

Te Ao Mārama is a pretty special issue of Salient. It came about in the 1970s, as the revitalisation of Te Reo Māori was being strongly fought for, after many years of the use of Te Reo being suppressed in New Zealand.

Last year, I went to Japan, as part of a delegation of New Zealand youth representing Aotearoa New Zealand on the ‘Ship for World Youth’. One of the awesome parts of the experience was being part of a delegation with multiple fluent speakers of Te Reo. While I had grown up in schools with a large percentage of Māori, this was the first time I experienced hearing Te Reo not just in the formal context – of a Kapa Haka competition, or a powhiri – but in the informal context all around me – in airports, over late-night beers, and when joking about wearing flu masks.

I feel very strongly that one of the most important things we can do to honour Te Tiriti is to use, pronounce correctly, and appreciate Te Reo Māori. Language is key to respecting people. A study that came out this year showed that Māori students were less likely to achieve at school if their teacher pronounced their name wrong. When language is core to the respect of culture, Te Reo needs to be a key part of the education of every single New Zealander.

I got really excited when I saw that The Warehouse in Gisborne last week has made the entire store and all of its signs bilingual – it seems really simple, but it means that many Gisborne locals will now learn many of the Māori words for everyday items. When I think about the limited Te Reo I can speak, I think of my teachers who made simple efforts to integrate Māori into every part of life – that ‘turituri’ meant ‘be quiet’, and ‘horoi o ringa ringa’ means ‘to wash your hands’. It didn’t seem hard for my teachers to do. As a university, and a Students’ Association, we must work alongside tauira Māori to entrench the role of Te Reo Māori in this university.

Naku, na
Sonya Clark | President


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