Language Symposium Marks 10-Year Milestone

22 June 2010

Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu is hosting a two-day language symposium to mark the 10-year anniversary of Kotahi Mano Kāika, Kotahi Mano Wawata – the tribe’s Māori Language Revitalisation Strategy. Affectionately known as KMK, this 25 year strategy which aims to have 1000 Ngāi Tahu households speaking te reo Māori, the tribes answer to halting the rapid decline in the use of te reo Māori in Te Waipounamu.

The symposium will be held at Christchurch Polytechnic’s Māori Department in Christchurch, on 23 – 24 June 2010. It will bring together a number of this country’s most passionate and proficient te reo speakers – many of who have been instrumental in the development of the KMK strategy. Keynote speakers include: Tā Tipene O’Regan, Tīmoti Kāretu, Hana O’Regan, Charisma Rangipunga and Dr Mere Skerrett.

“When we started on this journey 10 years ago our language was on the brink of extinction. Our native speakers were all but gone, our language rarely heard on marae. Generations of Kāī Tahu had grown up without the language and it was accepted as the norm to be Kāi Tahu and a non speaker”, says Charisma Rangipunga, Toitū te Kura Manager at Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu.

The KMK strategy adopted an innovative approach to language regeneration using the methodologies of internationally renowned language expert, Professor Joshua Fishman who focuses on intergenerational transfer. Fishman was invited by to speak at a language wānanga in2000 to assist the iwi with the development of their strategy.

“The symposium is really a celebration of where we are at 10-years on. It also provides an opportunity for some of those people who were the key drivers in the development of KMK to come back together to reflect on the strategy’s progress in turning around the fate of the language in Te Waipounamu”, says Charisma Rangipunga.

A number of milestones have been achieved over the last 10 years. Most significantly are the numbers of Ngāi Tahu families who have taken the language home and are choosing to raise their children in te reo Māori, creating a whole new pool of Ngāi Tahu first language speakers.

“Our language is the cornerstone of our identity. Without it we lose the ability to express our unique culture, to compose a waiata for the birth of a child, to welcome our guests and to farewell our loved ones. The future health and vibrancy of our culture is inextricably tied to the fate of our language.

“That is why we must never lose sight of our vision: Kotahi Mano Kāika, Kotahi Mano Wawata.”