Topic: Te Reo Māori

Turning the pages of time

By Te Kuru o te Marama Dewes
  • Auckland

To end Māori Language Week, we take a look at the very first written Māori text in the world which is on display at the Auckland War Memorial Museum and dates back over 200 years.

Te Rarawa elder Rapata Newson says, "Our language is oral so it wasn't written down. Upon the arrival of the missionaries they began to document the language."

Mr Newson finds the way the words were written to be entertaining. 

"The phonetics, like the word bed, to us it's bed but it was written as mountain because that's how the Pākehā ears heard it."

Written in 1815 by Thomas Kendall, it was used as a teaching resource at the first missionary schools in the north.

Mr Newson says, "It has content to teach children and the wider tribe to write in Māori."

He believes the book holds great value but for the language to live it needs to be spoken.

"Don't leave it for the marae or places of worship, ours is a noble language, it's the language of our ancestors, the language of New Zealand is the Māori language."

The book is on display at Auckland War Memorial Museum.