A Pakeha Journey in Te Reo Māori
This year I have started learning Te Reo Māori through Te Wānanga o Aotearoa, and damn. I went to learn a language and instead I have come away with some EAT PRAY LOVE ~self-fulfilment~ biz. The easiest way to tell you what I have learnt is to tell you what learning Te Reo made me realise I never knew.
I BELONGED TO NOWHERE
Knowing that I would have to do a mihi made me realise FOR THE VERY FIRST TIME. AS A GROWN ASS ADULT(!!) that I feel no connection to the land. Like, zero. In fact, I don't even know where I would consider 'home' to be. I simply thought of myself as an uptown gal. Upon realising this, I had a wee cry because we were learning how our location and our history gives us a strong sense of identity, of which I had none. Surely, if one had a magnetic sense towards a place, one would also consequently have gratitude for the land and water that sustains us, of which we would no longer take for granted. It made me realise that I want my tamariki to know, appreciate and live by a Maunga, an Awa, a Moana, all of who (and I say who because these are personified in Te Reo because we have a relationship with them) we will care for and make memories with.
TIME RULES ME
It wasn't until our class learnt about time that I realised that a capitalist economy dictates how we programme our lives. Never had I really engaged with the thought that the passing of the sun gets put in to categories like workdays and weekends, and our hours in to chunks of 9-5 because we have to. Capitalism has permanently dictated our lives, of which we cannot remove ourselves from. Again, in Te Reo, Māori personify time because they have a relationship with it. Because Māori look to the moon and seasons for things like fishing and harvesting. There is no man made allocations of 'time', just simply maramataka. And while our world is getting hotter and hotter, the more appealing it seems to be able to exit capitalism and moving towards the ways of Te Ao Māori and indigenous cultures all over the world because capitalism is killing us!
I ONLY SERVE MYSELF
A beautiful quote from a book about visiting a marae, "Pakeha and others who share this country with the Maori have created organisations often designed to materially enrich themselves, hardly aware that within our society is an establishment capable of providing cultural and spiritual enrichment by service to others". My marae trip was just that. Everyone helping in the kīhini, cleaning the whare paku whenever it needed it, without being called on or having camp-like rosters, just getting in and getting it done. I then drove home to my own home, where we live privately, not knowing our neighbours, and headed back to work to get higher in the rat race and improve my personal savings. As pakeha, we don't realise there are other, better ways because our systems and history have mostly destroyed them.
I DON'T DESERVE THIS
And lastly, every time we go to the campus and get taught and served by our kind and patient Māori teachers, I get hit by a wall of emotion that result in tears when being the recipient of haka and karanga in the pōwhiri. Because there is such grace given by our teachers who teach us the language that our forefathers tried to make extinct. There is no words for what it feels like to humbly receive the wealth of knowledge through this beautiful poetic language, except these: we don't deserve it.
If I haven't already convinced you to sign up for what will no doubt be another huge wait-listed year for tertiary Te Reo classes everywhere, you should also know this:
- STUDENT ID. Hello cheap movie tickets and HOP Card fares
- IT'S FREE.
- EVERYONE IS DOING IT. When all of our classes meet together on the campus, I look around and see all types of people. From young Karangahape Road types, to very very old pākeha couples who wear suspenders to hold up their pants, to the muslim women in hijab, to people temporarily living in New Zealand and wanting to understand their new home better, to Māori who are reconnecting with their language. When do we ever come together with all people from all walks of life to meet like this?
- WE ALMOST KILLED IT. It is only by a 1972 petition that asked for the government to officially recognise the language did the movement of Te Reo Māori start to rebuild. Of which one of the leaders of that petition has said "[te reo is] a gift to the Pakeha from the Māori... it is part of who we are as a nation"