Soldiers of te reo Māori reflect

By Te Kuru o te Marama Dewes

Today marks 45 years since The Māori Language Petition was delivered to Parliament. Those who delivered the petition gathered in Wellington today to acknowledge this milestone and reflect on the achievements to date.

Te Reo Māori Society member Whaimutu Dewes says, "Everything at that time was a battle, to get Māori language into schools we fought, to get Māori language on the radio we fought, for you to be able to interview me here today we fought for that too."

The Māori Language Petition was delivered to Parliament by Hana Te Hemara with support from Te Reo Māori Society of Victoria University and Ngā Tama Toa of The University of Auckland.

Dr Cathy Dewes of the Te Reo Māori Society says, "We all held a resolute belief that Māori should be empowered in this land and that the language needed to thrive for us to stand as Māori."

33,000 New Zealanders supported their request for funds to establish education and broadcasting initiatives for the language. That petition sparked a multitude of initiatives that have revived and invigorated te reo Māori for the last 45 years.

Dr Dewes says, "An amazing aspect to me about that group was that we worked together with our Pākehā friends."

Te Reo Māori Society member Dr Mary Boyce expresses that, "The Māori language is something I cherish dearly."

Despite achievements to date, the organiser of the event Dr Vincent Olsen-Reader of Victoria University says Māori need to stop applying deficit models of thought to language issues.

"I strongly disagree with claims that our language is dying, to me our language is alive and now we need to see that it continues to flourish further."

Members of the Te Reo Māori Society encourage the youth of today to stand and continue the fight for the Māori language and culture.