Ko taku reo taku ohooho, ko taku reo taku mapihi mauria
My language is my awakening, my language is the window to my soul
The whole point of the Treaty, as I see it, was to form a partnership between two peoples – a partnership which valued the culture of each fully and equally. What formed thebasis of this agreement was a deep understanding that each culture had significant taonga (treasures) to offer a combined people.
One of the fundamental treasures of each culture was, without doubt, the language. Yet today – despite the fact that it is an official language of this country and despite the fact that the government has supported spending on the development of Te reo within a Maori context – the language remains unknown by the majority of New Zealanders. This is a huge loss, both to the personal development of all New Zealanders and, indeed, to our nation.
The one thing that will forever be unique about this country is Te reo Maori. No other nation can ever lay claim to that. Furthermore Te reo remains the very best pathway to the treasures of Maori, and therefore to true partnership.
This Waitangi Day, as Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand, I call for this language to be placed on the same footing as English in our education system and to become the true possession of everyone who is a citizen of this country. It is not just those who identify as Maori who should have to work to preserve this treasure. This is the birth-right of everyone who calls themselves a New Zealander – a citizen of Aotearoa, and it should be treated as such, I believe.
Many countries teach multiple languages from the start of school. Many teach more than two. It is not a hard thing, but it is the right thing to do, so I call upon the new government of this land to honour the Treaty in this way and to give Te Reo Maori the same resources we give to teaching English. In doing so, this will make the language what it truly is: the legacy of a Treaty between two peoples who desired to become stronger not through conflict, but by sharing their treasures.
We are weaker than we should be because we do not truly hold this treasure. Let us correct this today and more fully resource every educational institute in this country to teach and to speak this wonderful language.
In the name and for the glory of Christ
Moderator Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand