Renowned Māori linguist shares knowledge at international conference

By Ruth Smith

Dr Hinurewa Poutu (Ngāti Rangi, Te Āti Haunui-a-Pāpārangi and Ngāti Maniapoto) is a renowned linguist who has worked tirelessly to revitalise and promote te reo Māori locally, nationally and internationally.

Recently she had the opportunity to share her research on an international stage when she visited a prestigious indigenous conference called ‘He Au Honua’. 

The conference is a forum where indigenous researchers from around the globe convene to discuss a range of topics including health, language and social and community development as they relate to the indigenous peoples of the world. 

He Au Honua takes its origins from the He Manawa Whenua conference that was previously hosted in Aotearoa.  The conference in Māui held last month was the 6th annual conference held.

Poutu, alongside her colleague, Dr Jen Martin presented at the forum and took the chance to highlight their own upbringings in the kura kaupapa system and how indigenous education could be optimised through their research, a feeling that resonated with many who were in attendance.

“Many of those came to listen were graduates of the Kula Kaiapuni of Hawai’i.  There were also teachers in those schools and parents who have chosen to raise their children in their native language,” says Poutu.

In 2015, Poutu released research which focused on identifying instances where youth use te reo Māori so as to encourage Māori youth who are fluent to use it in social situations.  Her research was written entirely in te reo Māori.

“One of the questions posed was about what would entice Māori youth in wharekura to speak Māori.  I collected data by preparing an online survey that high schoolers could take part in,” she says.

A graduate of the kōhanga reo, kura kaupapa and wharekura system, Poutu wears many different vocational hats, with the common thread being te reo Māori.

 “I worked as a teacher for a long time in kura kaupapa and wharekura, now I’m at Māori Television so the research still bears a lot of relevance to the current reo climate,” she says.

Although it has been some time since her research was published, there are still some key learnings that can be applied to the current reo situation.

“Some of the points that came up in the research I use as guiding principles in my work here at Māori Television now, and it’s my hope that I’ve listened correctly to my interviewees."