Te Kura Kaupapa Maori O Wairarapa students Takapuna Hamilton, 17, left, Manaia Riwai-Couch, 18, Charlie Harmon-Hohua, 16, Martene Power-Byl, 16, Troy Douglas, 16, and principal Hohepa Campbell. PHOTO/EMILY NORMAN
Stand tall, and stand proud.
These were the words spoken by Hohepa Campbell, principal of Te Kura Kaupapa Maori O Wairarapa, as he addressed his students at the start of Maori Language Week on Monday.
A handful of Year 12 and Year 13 students had formed a discussion panel in the classroom – they sat alongside their school teachers and spoke about the importance of keeping their language and culture alive.
Te Kura Kaupapa Maori O Wairarapa (TKKM), is no ordinary school.
The students there are taught almost exclusively in te reo Maori, fostering their cultural development, and ensuring their mother tongue stays never dies.
One of the most vocal of the students, Takapuna Hamilton, 17, said it was te reo that kept his people together.
“I feel like a different person when I speak te reo.”
He has been a student at TKKM for almost 13 years.
“I’m the elder and a fossil of this school,” he said.
“The difference between us and mainstream schools is our individuality.
“In the years I’ve been here, the thing I really notice is that everyone has their own personality.
“Instead of teachers shaping their students up to what they want them to be, the teachers here want the students to embrace who they really are.”
He hopes to be an animator, teacher, and then an archaologist when he graduates.
The oldest student in the group was Manaia Riwai-Couch, 18.
She hopes to be a Maori rights lawyer and musician, and has attended TKKM for 11 years.
She recommends watching Maori Television to foster te reo.
As the students spoke about their love of te reo Maori, they offered up words for pakeha to learn to acknowledge Maori Language Week, which runs from September 11 to 17.
Along with the words kia ora (hello, thank you), kai (food), and moe (sleep), came some more intriguing words that show the complexity and beauty of te reo Maori.
Teacher Pania Reiri-Smith spoke of hinatore, a word that has no English equal and which describes “the beginning of thought – that initial spark”.
Another word put forth, mana, created much discussion as to how it could be translated in English.
Mr Campbell said pakeha found it “very difficult to translate the word mana because there’s no one English word” for it.
“Respect, power, strength, responsibility, authority, prestige, pride, these are all words that partly describe it,” he said.
Troy Douglas, 16, said mana was “the third barrier that protects you”.
He showed an illustration with three circles, each inside the other.
“Imagine this is you, in the centre – this is Mauri (life force).”
The next outer circle, he said was “tapu, which maintains your life”.
“Your mana is that last barrier that helps your tapu and your Mauri to stay together and live life.”
This year’s theme of Maori Language Week is ‘Kia ora te reo Maori’ to celebrate the indigenous greeting.
It is celebrated in conjunction with the recently passed Maori Language Act 2016, which leads the revitalization of te reo Maori on behalf of iwi and Maori.