Native Americans here to get language revitalisation tips

By Heeni Brown
  • Auckland

A group of indigenous Americans are here in New Zealand to learn about Māori language revitalisation. 

As part of their journey, the Navajo and Goshute contingent are visiting Māori Television, and hope to incorporate the organisation's practises into a plan to help better revive their native languages.

Teacher and Salt Lake City resident Ryan Christiaan Pleune says, "I think topics are of particular importance, topics that are compelling to people because you broadcast to a lot of people but it also needs to be, needs to draw them in and make them excited about a certain language."

The group of 10 have travelled from Utah and Arizona and are being cared for by Rereata Makiha and Te Māhurehure Marae in Point Chevalier, Auckland. 

While here in New Zealand, they'll be looking for methods to help regenerate their own native languages. 

Navajo indigenous Kiara Weathersby says, "My family is Tangled, that's the Tangled clan and we're from the Navajo nation. So the Navajo nation is about 26,000 miles and we have over 300,000 people who are a part of the Navajo nation." 

During their visit to Māori Television, the group spoke about how both nations have their own challenges when it comes to language revitalisation. 

But Pleune and Weathersby are both adamant, in finding the best solutions to help the survival of their languages and cultures.

Pleune says, "Some of our delegation is from the Goshute tribe that's less than one hour west of Salt Lake City and they only have 30 native speakers, and they're all older so they'll be looking for ways that attracts young people and makes it exciting and powerful to learn that language, rather than just something that their grandparents speak."

Weathersby says, "My great grandmother used to be, she was a weaver and she actually was awarded for her language efforts and keeping the culture alive for the Navajo and for me. I am the first person in my family to go back and to restart learning how to weave. So for language, I am an adult learner of the language and I didn't start learning until last year."

For most of the week, the group will be visiting various sites of significance. This Saturday, they'll head to Whanganui to attend the annual Te Ataarangi language conference.