Friday, 18 May 2018

#52Ancestors, Week 20, Another Language

Nau mai haere mai

Te reo Māori has been recognised in New Zealand as an official language since 1987. For many years speaking it was almost outlawed, but slowly it has been revived and continues to become stronger.

When I was at primary school we learnt to count, sang songs (waiata), days of the week, colours, played stick games (ti rākau) and learnt simple weaving (raranga) and poi. We grew up using words as part of our everyday language that I didn’t even realise were Te Reo until I was an adult. There are plenty: e hoa, taihoa, ka pai, pakaru, kai, waewae, taringa, aroha, hikoi even before all of the place names and landmarks.

Nowadays, there are totally immersive preschools and schools like Kōhanga Reo. Most schools have kapa haka groups. Haka is well known around the planet, especially associated to sport like rugby. It is just part of who we are, as New Zealanders,  no matter whether we are Māori or not. Our pronunciation has improved and changed over time as we become more aware of HOW words should be pronounced and of the rhythm of the language.

At school, children learn their mihi, a short introduction about themselves; where they come from and what they identify with, who their parents are. These are often developed over time and may be used outside of school in workplaces and other meetings as adults.

Tēnā koutou katoa

Ko Taupiri tōku maunga
Ko Waikato tōku awa
Ko Oriental tōku waka
Ko Les tōku pāpā
Ko Lis tōku māmā
Ko Claire tōku ingoa

Nō reira tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa.

First you greet everyone, then you name your mountain, your river and sometimes your sea or lake; the places that you identify as home.

Then you say how you or your family travelled to New Zealand (Aotearōa), traditionally by ship (waka), and what your tribe (iwi) is, if you have one. Then who your parents are, then finally your name. (often at school you will also say the name of your school)

When reciting your mihi you always come last, because without all that comes before you – your parents, your family, the land and river to which you belong – you are nothing.

A more complex mihi is a pepeha where your entire family tree (whakapapa) is recited. Māori was not a written language before European settlement. For Māori knowing their whakapapa is integral to knowing where they belong; who they are. It was all passed on generation to generation orally.

I have written a very simple mihi pepeha (hopefully correctly) to demonstrate.

Ngā mihi nui kia koutou katoa

Ko Taupiri tōku maunga
Ko Waikato tōku awa
Ko Whanganui-a-Tara tōku moana
Ko Oriental tōku waka
Nō Kirikiriroa ahau
Ko Davys tōku whānau
Ko Les tōku mātua
I te tahi o tōku mātua
Ko Ruth tōku kuia
Ko Walter tōku koroua
Ko Lis tōku whāea
I te tahi o tōku whāea
Ko Elsie tōku kuia
Ko Albert tōku koroua
Ko Claire tōku ingoa
Ko Bendigo tōku kāinga
Ko taku hiahia ko te whakapapa

Nō reira
Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa.

Warm greetings to everyone

My mountain is Taupiri
My river is Waikato
Wellington Harbour is my sea
The Oriental is my ship
I am from Hamilton
My family is Davys
My father is Les
In my father’s family
Ruth is my grandmother
Walter is my grandfather
In my mother’s family
Elsie is my grandmother
Albert is my grandfather
My name is Claire
I live in Bendigo
My hobby is genealogy

That is all
Greetings to you all, greetings to you all, greetings to you all.

I’m never sure 100% sure about my mountain. My grandfather was born near Mangawara Stream at the base of Taupiri Mountain. The mountain is sacred (tapu) to Māori, and driving past always feels like I am arriving or leaving the Waikato region.

The Waikato River flows through Hamilton, where I was born, and north past Taupiri; so it has to be my river.

I spent my teenage years in Wellington, and I love that harbour and coastline, so I identify with that as my body of water.

The Oriental was the sailing ship which bought the first of my families from England to New Zealand -to Wellington in fact.

Going back up my family tree each of the previous 2-3 generations would likely have had different mountains, rivers and ships to which they identified, some even back in England or Ireland. 

Māori have a much longer association with Aotearōa. Even if they have moved about more recently, they still identify with a marae or river or mountain that has been significant to their whānau for generations.

I love the richness of Tikanga Māori and the tapestry that is woven into our lives too.

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