USA marae to revitalise reo for American Māori

By Pere Wihongi

Plans have been revealed for a million dollar cultural centre for American Māori living in Utah, USA. 

A marae is set to be built on five acres of land, gifted to the Māori community of Salt Lake City by a Mormon elder who spent his mission in New Zealand in the 70’s.

The marae will include an ancestral meeting house, health centre, dining hall, museum, and kitchen.

Resident kaumātua Rakaipaka Puriri of local iwi Ngāti Hiona, says, "We have a few Māori families living here in Utah, and we thought we can have something, a center where we can teach our kids a little more of their history".

Māori immigration to Utah began in the 1950’s following the spread of the Mormon religion.  The US state now houses an estimate of over 1,000 Māori.  The USA is the second country with the most Māori immigrants after Australia. 

"This has always been home," says Puriri, who is also a founding member of the Utah based New Zealand American society.

The group planted the seed for a marae in the area in the late 90s.  The initiative has been supported by local tikanga practitioner Nephi Prime, who has been in America since 2009.

Prime says, "Ko te tino moemoea kia whakatūria he waahi Māori, ka haramai a tātou whanaunga no Aotearoa, ki koneki, he waahi ki reira! Mo rātou".
('My ultimate dream is to have a Māori centre where our relations from NZ can come here and know there is a place for them here too').

 Prime says a strong push for te reo Māori will ensure the future of the marae and Māori living in the USA.

"Mā te reo, ka ora tonu a tātou tamariki. Mā wai hei kawe atu tō tātou reo rangatira? Mā tērā whakatipuranga, mā o tātou tamariki".
('Our language will nurture our children. Who else will carry it on? The new generation, our children'.)

All plans and resources have been donated to the community.

They plan to build the marae in 2020.