Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Language Revitalization and Cultural Continuity

By Anna Huard, 2nd year MDP student

Anna with students from Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o
 As an Indigenous woman, I am passionate about the tactics and tools Indigenous groups adopt to promote language revitalization and cultural continuity. By engaging with the Kura Kaupapa Māori o Ōtepoti (a Māori immersion school from grades K – 6), I was able to gain insight to Māori ways of life. I was introduced to the Principal of Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Ōtepoti, Tiahuia Kawe-Small, through the University of Otago. 

The greatest learning experience I have gained during my time spent at the Kura is being able to hear directly from the students why being fluent in te reo Māori is so important. The most striking observation I found was how confident the Māori students are when communicating with others (students, staff and guests, alike). These students uphold such a strong sense of identity that their sense of belonging is not put into question. I found this to be substantially different from Canadian Indigenous children, where the majority of our youth are raised without the knowledge that their cultures are relevant.

I also worked with the organizing committee coordinator with the Matariki Indigenous Peoples’ Program, which was a two-week extensive program on Māori sustainable development. The University of Otago hosted several university students and professors (including some from their own institution) from around the world, such as Dartmouth (U.S.), Durham (UK), Queens (Canada), and Western Australia. These days were long but incredibly rewarding. We took tours to maraes and museums, listened to knowledge keepers and academics, as well as engaged in meaningful conversations on how we could all learn from each other. 

I wish to thank Dr. Poia Rewi, the Dean of Te Tumu (School of Māori, Pacific, and Indigenous Studies), at the University of Otago, who was incredibly accommodating and supportive. Te Tumu is doing amazing work for Indigenous development and has no intention of slowing down their progress.

At a marae on the first day of the Matariki Indigenous Peoples' Program

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