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Te Wiki o te Reo Māori

June 7, 2023

Today marks 50 years since the Māori Language petition was delivered to Parliament on 14September 1972 by Ngā Tamatoa, Te Reo Māori Society and Huinga Rangatahi.

These groups gathered 30,000 signatures from across Aotearoa for the petition to have te reo Māori taught in schools.

This action was the beginning of a movement which resulted in the establishment of kōhanga reo, kura kaupapa Māori immersion schools, and Māori language radio and television programming.

Waitangi Treaty Grounds has been a place for protest and discourse for hundreds of years. Pictured are Ngā Tamatoa at Waitangi in 1972, the year the petition was presented.

Ngā Tamatoa was formed in the 1970s and promoted Māori rights and highlighted issues such as the loss of te Reo Māori, continued confiscation of land and racial discrimination[CC2] .

Their presence at Waitangi increased media attention and subsequently national awareness around Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

Photo credit: John Miller

These photos are from 6 February commemorations before it was recognised nationally as Waitangi Day. Photographer John Miller captured Ngā Tamatoa sitting in front of Te Whare Rūnanga early in the day and walking out en masse in the afternoon.

The year after this in 1973, Prime Minister Norman Kirk announced that 6 February would become a national holiday.

The legacy of Ngā Tamatoa includes initiating annual gatherings at Waitangi on Waitangi Day, as well as the 1975 Land March, led by Dame Whina Cooper, from Cape Reinga to Parliament in Wellington.

Photo credit: John Miller

Te Reo Māori was given official language status by the New Zealand Government in 1987 with the passing of the Māori Language Act.

Data from the 2021 General Social Survey indicated the proportion of the population who can speak more than a few words or phrases of te Reo Māori rose from 24 percent to 30 per cent. Over 23,000 students are enrolled in Māori medium education.

While 14 September1972 was declared Māori Language Day and three years later in 1975 it was expanded to Māori Language Week, there are still ongoing challenges to be embraced by us all to uplift and revitalise te Reo Māori.

For more information about Ngā Tamatoa click here

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