I was at an event recently where the national anthem was played, and it is very embarrassing to say that none of the New Zealand Pakeha VIPs there were able to sing the Te Reo version of our national anthem. They ended up singing the anthem, in English, twice.
As regular reader of my blog, you would be aware of my interest in promoting closer relationships between tangata whenua and the ethnic community. There are many similarities between both communities, culturally, the tikanga, kaupapa, and more. Maori, as well as the ethnic communities, are about tupuna as well as mokopuna.
Both the ethnic communities and tangata whenua needs to have more korero, dialogue, to make sure that there are interactions. It is important, not only because of the similarities, but also as a respect. Ethnic communities need to respect those who are the guardians, the people of the land; and for Maori communities to respect the wisdom and the contributions ethnic communities bring to Aotearoa, as the host.
It is also important that the people acknowledged ethnic communities have lived here pre-Treaty. The Chinese were here and because they were simply acknowledged as “aliens”, they are not part of the Treaty. On the other hands, Indians were considered as British Subjects because of their association with the British settlers. Therefore, this is a part in the history where Chinese were never acknowledged and fitted in Te Tiriti o Waitangi.
I have raised this question before – why newcomers to New Zealand must be fluent in English but there is nothing to say they need to learn Te Reo? I am no where close to being fluent, and I don’t believe we should all be forced to be fluent in Te Reo, however, isn’t this a respect, that we learn some te Reo?
The answers I get is – Oh, English is the most widely spoken common language. Of course it is, and so it should. However, if English, te Reo, and sign language are all official language of New Zealand, why shouldn’t newcomers have some initiatives to learn te Reo?
Not only that there is a lack of language learning, but no newcomers have any proper introductions to Maori culture. Most of us see the “singing and dancing Maori” (as I call them), and all they know about Maori is the haka, the tattoos, the crime rates… We need interactions between Maori and the ethnic communities.
I was absolutely moved when Ngati Whatua o Orakei won the Maori Business Recognition Award 2012 at the Aotearoa New Zealand Maori Business Leaders Awards. I have worked with them for many years and they have always been very welcoming and understanding of the newcomers. They make sure that newcomers are welcome and understand their culture and history in a very simple to understand way. They are also very aware of any cultural or religious needs and will provide halal catering where needed.
The ethnic communities are also working very hard to engage with tangata whenua. There is a large number of ethnic students who study te Reo at Unitec, and if you haven’t heard by now, Nga Tangata Hou, a kapa hapa group made up of only ethnic communities. (Yes there is an American in a group – he is still considered as “ethnic” in New Zealand as long as he is not considering himself as New Zealand Pakeha)
Nga tangata Hou is open to all New Zealanders who love waiata. They practice weekly and is a great place to engage with tangata whenua, and a great way to “show off” to the mainstream community, how much they know about Maori tikanga.
Do check out Nga tangata hou, email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.