Māori language revival

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The Māori language revival is a movement to promote, reinforce and strengthen the use of te reo Māori, the Māori language. Primarily in New Zealand, but also in places with large numbers of expatriate New Zealanders (such as London and Melbourne), the movement aims to increase the use of Māori in the home, in education, government, and business. The movement is part of a broader revival of tikanga Māori (Māori culture, cultural habits and practices) in what has been called the Māori renaissance.

Until World War II, most Māori people spoke Māori as their first language. But by the 1980s, fewer than 20 per cent of Māori spoke the language well enough to be classed as native speakers. The causes of the decline included the switch from using Māori to using English compulsorily in schools and increasing urbanisation, which disconnected younger generations from their extended families—in particular their grandparents, who traditionally played a large part in family life. As a result, many Māori children failed to learn their ancestral language, and generations of non-Māori-speaking Māori emerged.

In response, Māori leaders initiated Māori-language recovery-programs such as the Kōhanga Reo ("language nests") movement,[1] which, beginning in 1982, immersed infants in Māori from infancy to school age. In 1989, official support was given for Kura Kaupapa Māori—primary and secondary Māori-language immersion schools.

Te Wiki o te Reo Māori[edit]

A government-sponsored initiative, te Wiki o te reo Māori, Māori Language Week, has been celebrated since 1975 and is intended to encourage New Zealanders to support te reo Māori.

Māori Language Act 1987 and the Māori Language Commission[edit]

The Māori Language Act 1987 was passed as a response to the Waitangi Tribunal finding that the Māori language was a taonga, a treasure or valued possession, under the Treaty of Waitangi.[2]

The Act gave te reo Māori official-language status, and gave speakers a right to use it in legal settings such as in court. It also established the Māori Language Commission (initially called Te Komihana Mo Te Reo Māori but later renamed Te Taura Whiri i Te Reo Māori) to promote the language and provide advice on it.

Kōhanga Reo[edit]

Kōhanga Reo (Māori for 'language nest') is a whānau (family) development and language-revitalisation initiative grounded in Māori cultural principles and ideals. It facilitates the growth and development of mokopuna (grandchildren) through the transmission of Māori language, knowledge and culture. The kōhanga reo movement operates from the Māori philosophical world view and is principally guided by kaumātua (respected elders).

Individual Kōhanga Reo are autonomously run by their respective whānau, which consists of a "collective group of teachers, parents, local elders, and members of the Māori community".[3] While funded by governmental quarterly grants from the Te Kōhanga Reo National Trust, Kōhanga Reo often also charge additional fees to cover operational costs. These fees, determined by each whānau, are generally comparable to or less expensive than traditional child-care.[4] Conducted entirely in te reo Māori, a kōhanga reo is an environment where 0–6-year-olds,[5] kaumātua and whānau spend time together talking, playing, praying and learning. Daily activities may take place anywhere that is safe and warm including marae (traditional community meeting places), converted homes or purpose-built centres.

Emerging in the late 1970s at the direction of kaumātua, kōhanga reo was an immediate and urgent response to the decline of te reo Māori and tikanga Māori. Jean Puketapu and Iritana Tawhiwhirangi were among the early leaders when the first kōhanga reo was founded in Wainuiomata in 1982.[6] Three years later there were over 300 operating.[6] The success of kōhanga reo is such that they have been followed by the establishment of primary schools and secondary schools (Kura Kaupapa Māori) where Māori is the primary language of instruction. The role of Maori language in education in New Zealand is enshrined in the Education Act 1989.[7]

The kōhanga reo concept has led to other before-school initiatives in New Zealand that instruct in Pacific languages, e.g. Fijian, Rarotongan, Samoan, and Tongan and other countries adopting a similar concept. A notable example being Pūnana Leo established in Hawaii to revitalise the indigenous Hawaiian language.[8]


Election campaigns by the Māori Party often feature increased roles for reo Māori. In the 2011 election, the party wanted to require that all secondary schools offer the language as an option to every student.[9]

Kura Kaupapa Māori[edit]

Kura Kaupapa Māori are Māori-language-immersion schools.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Te Kōhanga Reo National Trust". Retrieved 2019-04-10. Te Kōhanga Reo National Trust Board was established in 1982 and formalised as a charitable trust in 1983. The Mission of the Trust is the protection of Te reo, tikanga me ngā āhuatanga Māori by targeting the participation of mokopuna and whānau into the Kōhanga Reo movement and its Vision is to totally immerse Kōhanga mokopuna in Te Reo, Tikanga me ngā āhuatanga Māori.
  2. ^ Dana, Peterson (14 March 2000). "Te Reo Māori - the Māori language" (PDF). New Zealand Parliamentary Library. pp. 1–9 [3]. Retrieved 14 February 2013.
  3. ^ King, Jeanette. 2001. Te kōhanga reo: Māori language revitalization. In The green book of language revitalization in practice, ed. Leanne Hinton and Ken Hale, 123. New York: Academic Press.
  4. ^ King, Jeanette. 2001. Te kōhanga reo: Māori language revitalization. In The green book of language revitalization in practice, ed. Leanne Hinton and Ken Hale, 119–128. New York: Academic Press.
  5. ^ Schooling is compulsory from age 6 in New Zealand
  6. ^ a b Thomson, Rebecca (14 November 2015). "Celebrating New Zealand's first kohanga reo - 150 Years of News". The Dominion Post. Stuff.co.nz. Retrieved 10 May 2017.
  7. ^ Education Act 1989
  8. ^ Neason, Alexandria. "How Hawaiian Came Back From the Dead". www.slate.com. Slate. Retrieved 10 May 2017.
  9. ^ Tahana, Yvonne (10 November 2011). "Maori Party wants te reo available to all". nzherald.co.nz. Retrieved 25 November 2011. The Maori Party wants to make te reo 'compulsorily available' in schools by 2015 but students wouldn't be compelled to take the subject.
  10. ^ "Education Act 1989, Section 155: Kura Kaupapa Maori". www.legislation.govt.nz. Retrieved 10 May 2017.

External links[edit]