When I told my son I was finally following my dream of learning te reo Māori he was very supportive. BUT he said I should try not to be affected by politics. oy vey! or yeah right! Anyway, there’s no denying that there is a heap of politics around the Māori/Pākehā divide. Where am I with it? To be honest the more I am immersed in the Māori world the more knowledge I gain about te ao Māori and therefore I am able to see things from a Māori viewpoint as well as Pākehā. I strongly believe that I have to be able to know BOTH sides to even comment. So many people are opinionated but they only see things from their own side. That there has been – and still is – a major unjust occupation of Māori land/language/customs I am in no doubt.
I see some of the lasting evidence of this occupation in my te reo class. At the start of the year I was aware of the Māori students in my class. Although the class is inclusive of anyone who wants to learn, it is most important for Māori to connect with their reo and their roots. Herein lies the politics. Her are tangata whenua coming along to this course and learning something that should have been their birthright! Many of their parents and grandparents were forbidden and/or punished when they spoke Māori. Many well intentioned parents wanted their children not to speak Maori as they felt is was best for them to learn the language of the dominant culture. Heart wrenching and also beautiful to see tangata whenua going through grieving and reclaiming their culture with pride. I feel privileged to have the opportunity to be part of this and to do my little part of being an ambassador for promoting this beautiful language.