Family backs Waikato-Tainui's Language Strategy

By Mānia Clarke
  • Waikato/Bay of Plenty

A family is backing Waikato-Tainui's new Language Strategy, which aims to have 80 percent of their iwi members speaking fluently by 2050. 

Four generations of the Matatahi whānau are immersed in Waikato customs and dialect.

Their matriarch Tutata Hetet-Matatahi grew up in an era where speaking Māori was not allowed in schools. She has nurtured members of the whānau to revive the language.  

“In those days we didn't speak Māori because we went to a mainstream school. But we did speak Māori to our elders,” says Tutata Hetet-Matatahi.

From a young age, her grandson and great grandchildren were brought up learning the language.

Huirama Matatahi says, “I learnt the language at our local kōhanga reo, at school and from my elders. The language is predominately heard in tribal gatherings.”

Waikato-Tainui have more than 60, 000 tribal members. According to Statistics New Zealand, 30 percent of Waikato-Tainui people speak Māori.

Tutata's daughter, Donna Te Ngaere-Matatahi however says that she isn’t a confident speaker.

“It was all around me, I can't speak it fluently.  When somebody asks me something in Māori I know what the answer is, but I'm just too scared to say it. I might say it wrong,” says Donna Te Ngaere-Matatahi.   

The Māori Language Commission salutes the bold plan to save the Māori Language. The move has also motivated Donna Te Ngaere-Matatahi.

“So I'm looking at doing that with our local kōhanga, like start from kōhanga I suppose, just to build my confidence in speaking,” says Donna Te Ngaere-Matatahi.

Waikato-Tainui’s Maori Language strategy includes interactive online learning tools for children. Waikato-Tainui and WINTEC has a whānau-specific Māori language programme.

The Tribe hopes that the strategy will help develop a stronger sense of identity and tribal pride.

Huirama Matatahi says, “I believe that my children must be fluent speakers. I also believe this needs to extend to my household, my marae and my subtribe so that we can achieve the goals within the strategy.”