Written By: - Date published: 10:56 am, January 16th, 2018 - 68 comments
Categories: bill english, Deep stuff, national, Politics, racism, racism, same old national, treaty settlements - Tags: paul moon
The language is the life force of the mana Māori.
I have met Bill English once, at Hoani Waititi marae in Waitakere last Waitangi day. He initially impressed. He was welcomed onto the marae formally and then spoke in te reo Māori. His te reo was way better than mine which is improving but is still frustratingly poor. I was pleased that he had made the effort. I then met him face to face and the experience was very underwhelming but I was delighted that a conservative politician had made the effort to learn te reo Māori.
Which is why I am disappointed that he has engaged in a snarky dog whistle this morning and suggested that the Crown is doing all that it should to preserve te reo Māori and that it is somehow someone else’s language.
“The language will be saved by the people who own it and love speaking it,” the National Party leader told The AM Show on Tuesday.
“Māori need to speak Māori if they want to preserve the language.”
A controversial new book, Killing Te Reo Māori, claims everything we’re doing to save the language is having the reverse effect.
Mr English says a statistic mentioned in the book, stating one in five Māori under the age of 30 speak Te Reo, is “probably higher” than expected.
“I think it’s doing a bit better… I don’t think it actually is failing, if anything it’s probably holding.
“The Government has some obligations through the treaty. It’s met them in my view. We’ve spent a lot of money on TV, on resources for schools and so on.
“Probably a bit more can be done with resources for schools and teachers, but in the end it needs people who want to speak it.”
“But the owners of it need to speak it and that is people in their households.
“You can’t rely on a Government and a bureaucracy to save someone else’s language.”
And the Crown promised when it signed the Treaty of Waitangi to protect all of Māori’s taonga. Its breach in failing to support and sustain te reo Māori was recognised by the Waitangi Tribunal in 1986.
The Tribunal said:
The claimants have said to us that the Crown has failed to protect the Māori language (te reo Māori) and that this is a breach of the promise made in the Treaty of Waitangi.
Some New Zealanders may say that the loss of Māori language is unimportant. The claimants in reply have reminded us that the Māori culture is a part of the heritage of New Zealand and that the Māori language is at the heart of that culture. If the language dies the culture will die, and some thing quite unique will have been lost to the world.
Our task has been to decide whether the Treaty has been broken in this respect, and if it has, what should be done about it.
The evidence and argument has made it clear to us that by the Treaty the Crown did promise to recognise and protect the language and that that promise has not been kept. The ‘guarantee’ in the Treaty requires affirmative action to protect and sustain the language, not a passive obligation to tolerate its existence and certainly not a right to deny its use in any place. it is, after all, the first language of the country, the language of the original inhabitants and the language in which the first signed copy of the Treaty was written. But educational policy over many years and the effect of the media in using almost nothing but english has swamped the Māori language and done it great harm.
We have recorded much of what we were told of the effect upon Māori children of our educational policy and it makes dismal reading. it seems that many Māori children leave school uneducated by normal standards, and that disability bedevils their progress for the rest of their lives.
We have recommended that te reo Māori should be restored to its proper place by making it an official language of new Zealand with the right to use it on any public occasion, in the Courts, in dealing with government departments, with local authorities and with all public bodies. We say that it should be widely taught from an early stage in the educational process. We think instruction in Māori should be available as of right to the children of parents who seek it. We do not recommend that it should be a compulsory subject in the schools, nor do we support the publication of all official documents in both english and Māori, at least at this stage in our development, for we think it more profitable to promote the language than to impose it.
English’s comments were made in relation to a new book published by Historian Paul Moon Killing Te Reo Māori. Moon has had a checkered past and has been described as New Zealand’s most right wing historian. Claudia Orange once famously said that he was out of his mind.
His latest book claims that a concentration on correct pronunciation is killing the renaissance of te reo. This is a funny claim. I always thought that correct pronunciation was necessary for the survival of a language, otherwise how would everyone know what was being said.
The discussion is an important one. As the Tribunal correctly stated Māori culture is a part of the heritage of New Zealand and te reo Māori is at the heart of that culture. If te reo Māori dies the culture will die, and some thing quite unique will have been lost to the world. That is why the Government should be doing all it can to ensure that te reo Māori florishes.