Going full circle with Te Reo

Tane Tamanui talks about what his language means to him on the occasion of Maori Language Week (Te Wiki o te Reo Māori).

Tane, of Ngariki Kaiputahi and Tuhoe descent, is Fulton Hogan’s Land, Rivers and Coastal Supervisor in Gisborne. The image shows Tane on one of his favourite pursuits, hunting in the hills of Gisborne.

Ko taku reo taku ohooho, ko taku reo taku mapihi mauria
My language is my awakening, my language is the window to my soul

My parents were bought up in an era where they were punished for speaking Te Reo in the school grounds. This may have been why Mum and Dad were reluctant to speak Te Reo in our everyday family life. Now at 58 years of age, I’m on a journey to learn the language.

You could say the timing hasn’t been great for my generation. I was too old for the arrival of kohanga reo and kura kaupapa (Māori immersion schools), and the opportunities to learn the Māori language were limited. Then I became focused on a career, sacrificing everything Maori to reach my goals. From an early age I was under an illusion that the Māori language wasn’t going to do anything for my career opportunities.

Now I’m going full circle. You could say I’m sort of doing things backwards. But as you get older you get a feeling of being responsible for the future of your Ti Kanga, our language our waiata. Both my parents were native fluent speakers of Te Reo, my two sisters and niece teach Te Reo night classes for EIT and also teach small whanau groups in their homes.

It’s also surprising who’s learning Te Reo. Many are people who probably used to think Māori wasn’t going to get them anywhere. Like I used to.

The increasing role of Te Reo is not the only change in my life. In July, the Gisborne District Council’s Land, Rivers and Coastal Division, where I was the supervisor, became part of Fulton Hogan. It’s a bit like being part of a new tribe, at work. At the time I asked quite a few people what Fulton Hogan was like and they were very positive – we haven’t been disappointed.

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