Māori deaf community hoping to connect more with their marae, tikanga

By D'Angelo Martin

Māori with hearing loss would like to connect more with their marae and tikanga Māori, they also want to be included in Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori celebrations. 

Deaf Youth leader Eric Matthews says, "We're hoping for a future where Maōri deaf are able to develop waiata so that hearing Māori are able to learn...the beautiful flowing signs that we use when we waiata, our facial expressions."

Sign language became an official language of New Zealand in 2006.  With only about 110 interpreters, Tū Tangata Turi would like to encourage more Māori to take up the challenge. 

"I really like to see Māori deaf people able to stand up by themselves, to be able to participate with the Māori hearing community, to develop people's sign language."

Deaf awareness is growing within Māori communities, and people are being encouraged to step up and learn more about sign language.  However, just finding tutors who are willing to teach the language is a struggle.

"I'm really hoping to see more Māori tutors because at the moment there aren't really any Māori deaf who can tutor...that's something that we're trying to grow so that we can get involved in local marae and set up classes for Māori to take sign language."

Matthews is saddened that the deaf community has no involvement in Māori Language Week but hopes that is soon to change.

"The Māori deaf board is looking to engage with the Māori Language Commission to develop ways of Māori deaf and Māori hearing working together in partnership."

Matthews also sends his condolences to Sir Hekenukumai Ngāiwi Pūhipi who recently passed away.

"It's really sad because I didn't get the opportunity to meet him but I heard so much about him.  However, I do know that he was a really strong role model for the Māori community and when he passed away it was a massive loss to us."

Shannon Mckenzie who is a New Zealand sign language interpreter was the interpreter for this interview.