This week we celebrate Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori. Community Curator Arawhetu Berdinner caught up with Sharee Adam (Ngāti Koroki-Kahukura, Ngāti Paoa), a leading proponent in local reo revitalisation, amongst the bustle of our national hīkoi from parliament to Te Ngākau, Civic Square.
You can learn more about Sharee’s work in our current Suffrage 125 related exhibition: Whakatū Wāhine – Women Here and Now.
Sharee Adam, photo credit: Mark Tantrum
AB Tēnā koe i te rangatira, kei te pea hea koe i tēnei rā?
SA Tēnā koe i te rangatira! Kei te harikoa te ngākau, ae.
AB What does this walk during Te Wiki o te Reo Māori mean to you?
SA Taking part in the hīkoi is really just about bringing people together again. With our mahi sometimes we get caught up in living life, it just gives [us] a chance to celebrate as a group in public.
AB How did your rōpū find the hīkoi today?
SA Yeah rawe, it was cool being amongst the tamariki and others who really support the reo. There must have been about a thousand* people in total so it was good to be among a thousand people who really support te reo, and you know, waving to everyone in the buildings was fun.
*editors note – numbers were recorded at 4300 making the Sept 10 hīkoi the biggest yet for Te Wiki.
Image credit: Tōku Reo Trust
AB You’ve mentioned before to me how we’ll know that real progress has been made when it’s normal to converse in the reo during the daily activities we go about—buying your groceries, ordering your coffee, asking for directions. What kind of work do we need to put in to see this happen?
SA I think it’s about using te reo… people who have either learnt te reo or grew up in a reo environment should start using it ‘ahakoa te aha’—no matter what—and I think when it’s not considered a ‘feat’ to speak te reo for a whole day, or speak te reo a week, or a month, then we’ll know that it’s normal.
So in terms of what we need to do: the people who have reo need to start using it wherever and whenever, and start demanding it to be used in their spaces—whether it’s a grocery store or the coffee shop or library.
It’s just demanding that it (the Māori language) be used by using it. Not by telling people what to say, but if you use it, then sometimes you get it back.
How we will know it’s normal is when it doesn’t seem like an amazing task to stay in the reo Māori for the day. That should be normal for us… one day!
AB Learning and speaking te reo Māori can have many more benefits than just engaging your brain; can you tell us about the qualities you’ve experienced on your waka to fluency?
SA Probably just connecting with lots and lots of different people, from all different backgrounds. That’s one of the benefits that you wouldn’t think of, just by speaking te reo.
Travelling as well, around the motu, getting opportunities to go to hui, and noho, and symposiums—that’s one way to see the country. And I believe one day it will take me overseas as well, for some other kaupapa.
AB What’s one message you can give to those who are beginning their reo journey?
SA Kia kaha, kia mia, kia manawanui (be strong, be steadfast, be willing). Whāia te iti kahurangi, ahakoa he iti he pounamu (strive for something of great value).
Yeah, start! No matter how scary it might seem. Especially for our Māori people, it’s just that extra little bit scary for us because we’re ‘supposed’ to know it? You know, people think you should know it, but most of us don’t, so kia kaha.
It doesn’t matter where you are in your life, if you’re young, middle-aged or a little older, mea tīmata, you’ll start to see the world in a different light—having this connection and understanding te reo. Yeah, kia kaha.
AB Your work as a part of Tōku Reo Trust with Moana Kaio (Te Whānau-ā-Apanui, Ngāti Pikiao) was originally established to build on whānau wanting support for strengthening reo Māori in the home. You’ve since been working in partnership with organisations including the Hutt City Council,do you see your work expanding to a national level?
SA Yeah, tērā pea. We went to a national symposium and we took a group of students (we call them ‘language leaders’ or reo champions) to Hastings just a couple of weeks ago, and one of the presenters had our reo 2 go images up on their slide. They were talking about whakaraua te reo, revitalising the language within the whānau, and they mentioned our mahi as a part of their presentations.
Just today one of our students was at a hui, she said our reo 2 go was mentioned in a presentation by Stacey Morrison and Scotty Morrison, so tērā pea—if anyone thinks that we might have something to share, we would welcome being invited.
AB With the energy of this day before us, is there anyone you’d like to make a shout out to?
SA Awwwwww, I won’t say anyone in particular, because there’s too many, and I might forget one! But to anyone who has been on their [te reo] journey, even to people I haven’t met yet, ngā mihi kia koutou, hōia tērā waka, te waka reo, whāia te mātauranga me te aroha nui i roto i tō tātau reo.
Shout out to everyone. Ka pai!