Te Puia New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute research and communications co-ordinator Ngaa Ruuira Puumanawawhiti. Photo/File

In 2004, a famous political speech was delivered at the Orewa Rotary Club by former National Party leader, Don Brash.

As a child, I remember hearing the phrases “we are one people, one nation” and of course, this thinking was not totally unfamiliar to my upbringing, it’s just that we used different language to express these ideas and in my household it was called ‘kotahitanga’, ‘whanaungatanga’ and the like.

And then as I grew older, I realised that these phrases had coded messaging which provoked my thinking.

Questions like, ‘What do we mean when we say these things? What kind of people and nation are we talking about? One that is predominantly English-speaking or something else?’



Because if unity under one nation is the message, then I’m not sure if many of my fellow New Zealanders are as committed to that promise as I am?

That if the context of Maori-Pakeha relations through Te Tiriti are premised upon the sharing of this land for the development of both societies going forward into the future – and if the development of those two societies rests, in part, on the survival and growth of culture and identity through language – why is it so damn hard for people to allow a place for Te Reo Maori to thrive in a modern Aotearoa?

The truth is, New Zealand cannot achieve multiculturalism without achieving biculturalism first.

And New Zealand will never achieve biculturalism if it deliberately chooses to protect the bastions of monolingualism in our society – one of them being the public education system as National’s second language policy ignores the big brown taniwhā in the room.

We don’t have a ‘let’s celebrate the English language week’. That’s because there’s 52 of those every year.

So let’s do our best to celebrate Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori! Otherwise what New Zealand will have is a whole lot of cultural identities competing to occupy the same physical space at the behest of the more dominant, Euro-centric New Zealand.

Multiculturalism.

Now that’s a different thing altogether and requires meaningful commitment to each other and this country has pioneered this space before – we can do it again.

We can keep leading the world on this matter or we can keep living in 1950s New Zealand.

Kei a koe te tikanga.

That decision is yours to make.

– Ngaa Rauuira Pumanawawhiti is the research and communications co-ordinator  at the Te Puia New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute. He has a passion for indigenous New Zealand and hopes to take Māori people and culture to the world.

Source: Rotorua Daily Post

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