Topics: Education, Queen's Birthday Honours, Te Reo Māori

Reo Māori Crusader Tīmoti Kāretu acknowledged with Knighthood

By Mānia Clarke

Māori Language expert Professor Tīmoti Kāretu QSO (Ngāti Kahungnu, Ngāi Tūhoe) has been made a Knight Companion on the Queens birthday honours list for his services to the Māori Language.

Prof Tīmoti Kāretu is satisfied with the fruits of a lifelong mission. Celebrating with his most loyal students (in Bilbao, Basque Region) when news hits from home. 

"We're here to see the state of the languages here. It's about exchanging ideas, ideas we can take on or grab and giving ideas," said Kāretu.

At 80 years of age, the work hasn't slowed.  He's currently leading a group of former students on a language exchange around Europe. They are graduates of the Institute of Excellence in the Māori language which he helped established 14 years ago. 

"We saw that the those graduating from university had not yet achieved the level of Reo proficiency they should, despite having a degree. I see the students who have come through the Academy of Excellence over the years and I am confident that they will continue to pass on the teachings they've been taught."

Reikura Morgan, from the Institute's first cohort, says, "He's a prodigy. He is one of the designers and sculptors in the art of speaking Māori that we use today, in which he laid the structures and foundations." 

Raised by native speaking adoptive parents Tame and Mauwhare Kāretu at Waimako in Waikaremoana, Māori was his first language.

Today he speaks at least five different languages. The linguistic guru has held many leading roles such as the first commissioner for Te Taura Whiri and Kohanga Reo National Trust, but teaching others is what really drives him.  

"My years at Waikato University and tutoring the University haka group have been highlights of achievement to me. I also want to acknowledge those who consented to follow me over the years within Tainui under the mantel of Te Arikinui Te Atairangi Kaahu," said Kāretu.

Known for his tough stance of language proficiency, many students have excelled under his tutelage. 

"For some, he's intimidating, to others he's the epitome in embellishing language, whether in English or Māori and the many languages he knows. He's a genius, an expert," said Morgan.