Ngāti Whakaue kura reo to re-generate proficient speakers

By Mānia Clarke

Ngāti Whakaue descendants took up the challenge to learn more about their dialect and customs during the first week of the school holidays. They attended the 5th annual Te Kura Reo o Ngāti Whakaue, at Rotorua's Tangatarua marae. 

To ensure the survival of their dialect and customs is the essence of the Kura Reo.

"Ngāti Whakaue songs are learnt. Trips are planned for our people to get to know their region, so every year that's one of the requests of our people to explore the lands within our boundaries, said co-organiser, Rāwiri Waru.

Keen participants have come from near and far, like Kataraina Taepa-Matakatia and her whānau who have travelled from Wellington. 

"Despite the pressures of work or the environment let's say, the benefit of the kura reo, the spirit is unhindered again, to be energised again and ready to pave this pathway of learning," said Taepa-Matakatia.

A third of the 24,000 Ngāti Whakaue descendants have a level of reo Māori capability. There has been a long drive to support re-generation of proficient paepae speakers across 30 marae in Rotorua.

"Years ago, our esteemed elder Hamu Mitchell predicted that the reo of Ngāti Whakaue would die within a decade.  He said that in 1992 perhaps. That really didn't sit well with me," said Waru.

"Through wānanga like these over time there will be a gradual increase of Māori speakers," said Kura Reo teacher, Kiharoa Milroy. 

However over the last few years, many prominent elders of Te Arawa have passed away.

"Many of our women come but only a few men. I don't know if it's because they're busy or they're shy to take up the challenge. If more men come, that will ensure the well-being of our orators," said Milroy.

"Don't speak Māori only on the marae, but speak it at home, on the streets, in the shops throughout the area, so we can say, the language is alive," said Waru.

Three more weekend Kura Reo will be held this year.