Reviving Māoridom's diminishing orators

By Leah Te Whata
  • Auckland
  • Waikato/Bay of Plenty

Waikato - Tainui is taking Māori language revitalisation into their own hands, implementing the final stage of a seven-part te reo strategy called Te Pae Kākā in the hopes of replenishing a diminishing pool of orators on marae throughout the region.

Who will take care of the Waikato - Tainui marae? It is hoped to be the students of Te Pae Kākā who are hungry to learn Māori protocol.

Te reo Māori exponent and Te Pae Kākā teacher, Pānia Papa says, “The elders are passing on, those who hold historical knowledge as well as the language.”

Rahui Papa is also delivering the program alongside his sister. He says, “We want to revive the language and oratory, so that our orators' benches may echo vibrantly once more.”

Funded completely by the iwi, Te Pae Kākā is an expression of autonomy, while revitalizing tribal dialect and protocol.

Pānia Papa says, "Tribes must be empowered to strengthen their people, that to me is the way to autonomy and sovereignty."

“If the government contribute even a cent to this initiative, they'll think that they are in charge,” adds Rahui Papa.

The first intake for the program has been limited to a select group of people including Te Iti Kahurangi female leader, Tiare Teinakore who says, “We've come to learn and sit at the heels of our teachers.”

Vince Hapi is a speaker on his marae. He told Te Kāea that his hopes are, "To fill the gaps and rebuild a foundation for language revitalisation.”

An iwi steeped in tradition, census numbers show around 31% of Waikato - Tainui descendants have some level of fluency in the Māori language. But Teinakore says language won't be the only focus of the program. “I'm here to learn knowledge passed down, the incantations, songs, things that may not be known by Ngāti Hāua. Whether we live an hour, half an hour, or two hours apart, our protocols vary.”

Rahui Papa says, “The desire is to reconsolidate the dialects of Tainui, when we stand to speak on the marae, people will know this person is Tainui.”

There are nine monthly wānanga remaining for the iwi who are setting an example to save an endangered language.