Turi-Deaf Māori reclaiming their reo birthright

By Aroha Mane , Te Ao - Māori News

Although te reo Māori has been an official language in Aotearoa for 32 years, an estimated 3,000 Turi-Deaf Māori continue to fight for their Māori language rights.

Rachael Turner (Ngāti Mahuta) told Te Ao, “I feel like there are heaps of gaps because we don't say anything. We don't have interpreters on the marae, so how do we understand what's being talked about? How do we understand whakapapa? How do we learn? How do we take it on ourselves?”

Recently, Rūaumoko, the first turi marae, was opened in Auckland.  The tīkanga and kawa of this marae is to welcome turi Maori back to te ao Māori.

Tanesha Sleeman (Ngāi Tahu) says, “There are so many things I really want to change for the future. I really want to ensure that our rangatahi have a lot of support, especially in activities like kapa haka and weaving. There are so many things, support mechanisms we need for our rangatahi."

“We have a Turi-Deaf Māori hui coming up in about two weeks, so we're really encouraging our rangatahi to come along. It's an opportunity for us to learn about our culture, about tikanga and things like that. It's really to further develop their knowledge so that they can see and accept themselves as Māori.”

In 2017 Te Whānau Turi o Aotearoa Inc applied to Te Mātāwai for funding to further develop their aspirations, but their application was declined.

Te Ao asked Te Mātāwai why the application was turned down and they gave the following statement.

"Te Whānau Turi o Aotearoa Inc applied for funding in the 2017/2018 Reo Tukutuku investment round. The Pae Motuhake of Te Reo Tukutuku assessed the application and determined that it did not align to their investment priorities.”

Having been left to their own devices, the turi Māori community continues to persevere.

Turner says, “It would be really nice to see our Māori people learning sign language. Also, there are some projects I'm involved in where we are incorporating kupu Māori in sign-language and having Māori hearing working alongside us to teach this. And, of course, we'd like to see trilingual sign language interpreters in the future.”

Turi Māori are ready to take the lead in creating initiatives for their betterment and are looking forward to working with others to make this possible.

This report was filed by our Turi-Deaf Māori correspondent Eric Matthews in a news reporting first for Te Ao Māori News.