Connecting with people and land through te reo

MAKING CONNECTONS: Nga Whenua Rahui kaitakawaenga (field officer) Whakarae Henare said speaking te reo was part of his everyday job. "It is all about the connection, with the tangata, and also the whenua." Picture by Paul Rickard

SPEAKING te reo Maori is part of the everyday job for Tairawhiti’s Nga Whenua Rahui team.

The nationwide programme provides protection for Maori landowners through 25-year renewable kawenata (covenants) and assists with conservation.

Tairawhiti kaitakawaenga (field officer) Whakarae Henare, who has whakapapa to hapu Te Whanau o Hinerupe and iwi Ngati Porou, has been with the organisation since 2012. As a fluent te reo speaker, Mr Henare finds it helps make connections with landowners.

“In a Maori world view, Maori like to do things kanuhi ki te kanuhi — face to face.

“Speaking te reo is really beneficial for that. Our key clients are Maori, and when we go onto a land block or have meetings we do karakia (prayer), mihi (introductions), waiata (songs) and give our whakapapa (ancestry), letting each other know where we are from. It is really important.”

As a 26-year old, it also helps him connect with the older generations.

“If have a meeting and it is my turn to get up and mihi, I see they are blown away by a person of my age speaking te reo.

“When I introduce myself in te reo, I see the smiles on their faces. They really appreciate it.”

Te reo is a way of connecting with the tangata (people) and the whenua (land).

“If the land is healthy, the people are going to be healthy. What state it is in is up to us.”

The connection is inherent in things like pepeha, which establishes their turangawaewae (place to stand), with reference to their mountain (maunga) and river (awa).

“Ko Hikurangi te maunga. Ko Waiapu te awa. Ko horouta te waka. Ko Ngati Porou te iwi.”

The organisation’s whakatauaki (proverb) sums up the connection: “Whatu ngarongaro te tangata toitu te whenua — people will disappear but the land will remain.”

Nga Whenua Rahui has been running for 27 years, making it the second-longest running government agency dealing with Maori, after kohanga reo (early childhood education).

About 173,000 hectares on 256 different sites throughout Aotearoa are under Nga Whenua Rahui kawenata.

In Tairawhiti there are 37 sites, with a total of 13,374ha protected.

Mr Henare’s reo journey began during his upbringing in Te Araroa.

“I was brought up around my grandfather and grandmother speaking it.”

He attended kohanga reo from two to five years old and while he only had two years of total immersion primary schooling, it set him up for life.

“For me it was that upbringing, just hearing it spoken around me. Being in a rural area, we were also on the marae a lot, attending sad and happy occasions, and a lot of the whanau could speak it.

“My grandfather told me back in his generation they would get the strap if they spoke it at school but at home it was all they spoke. In my dad’s generation it was not spoken but for my brother and I, my grandfather wanted to instil te reo back into our generation.”

He grew up around the farm, and was always into hunting, eeling and fishing.

When he left school he was going to study farm management at Lincoln University but was drawn into a Maori conservation cadetship.

“The aim of the course was to get more young Maori into conservation, especially with Treaty settlements ramping up.

“The idea was we would go back to the iwi and help out with the assets handed back through Treaty settlements.”

Mr Henare said it was up to the younger generation now to revitalise te reo.

“Our older people were not allowed to speak it but now I can see cultural changes in Aotearoa. More people are starting to take it upon themselves, learning a few words here and there. Working with Maori, if can you speak te reo they will really connect with you.

“It is all about the connection with the tangata and also the whenua.”

SPEAKING te reo Maori is part of the everyday job for Tairawhiti’s Nga Whenua Rahui team.

The nationwide programme provides protection for Maori landowners through 25-year renewable kawenata (covenants) and assists with conservation.

Tairawhiti kaitakawaenga (field officer) Whakarae Henare, who has whakapapa to hapu Te Whanau o Hinerupe and iwi Ngati Porou, has been with the organisation since 2012. As a fluent te reo speaker, Mr Henare finds it helps make connections with landowners.

“In a Maori world view, Maori like to do things kanuhi ki te kanuhi — face to face.

“Speaking te reo is really beneficial for that. Our key clients are Maori, and when we go onto a land block or have meetings we do karakia (prayer), mihi (introductions), waiata (songs) and give our whakapapa (ancestry), letting each other know where we are from. It is really important.”

As a 26-year old, it also helps him connect with the older generations.

“If have a meeting and it is my turn to get up and mihi, I see they are blown away by a person of my age speaking te reo.

“When I introduce myself in te reo, I see the smiles on their faces. They really appreciate it.”

Te reo is a way of connecting with the tangata (people) and the whenua (land).

“If the land is healthy, the people are going to be healthy. What state it is in is up to us.”

The connection is inherent in things like pepeha, which establishes their turangawaewae (place to stand), with reference to their mountain (maunga) and river (awa).

“Ko Hikurangi te maunga. Ko Waiapu te awa. Ko horouta te waka. Ko Ngati Porou te iwi.”

The organisation’s whakatauaki (proverb) sums up the connection: “Whatu ngarongaro te tangata toitu te whenua — people will disappear but the land will remain.”

Nga Whenua Rahui has been running for 27 years, making it the second-longest running government agency dealing with Maori, after kohanga reo (early childhood education).

About 173,000 hectares on 256 different sites throughout Aotearoa are under Nga Whenua Rahui kawenata.

In Tairawhiti there are 37 sites, with a total of 13,374ha protected.

Mr Henare’s reo journey began during his upbringing in Te Araroa.

“I was brought up around my grandfather and grandmother speaking it.”

He attended kohanga reo from two to five years old and while he only had two years of total immersion primary schooling, it set him up for life.

“For me it was that upbringing, just hearing it spoken around me. Being in a rural area, we were also on the marae a lot, attending sad and happy occasions, and a lot of the whanau could speak it.

“My grandfather told me back in his generation they would get the strap if they spoke it at school but at home it was all they spoke. In my dad’s generation it was not spoken but for my brother and I, my grandfather wanted to instil te reo back into our generation.”

He grew up around the farm, and was always into hunting, eeling and fishing.

When he left school he was going to study farm management at Lincoln University but was drawn into a Maori conservation cadetship.

“The aim of the course was to get more young Maori into conservation, especially with Treaty settlements ramping up.

“The idea was we would go back to the iwi and help out with the assets handed back through Treaty settlements.”

Mr Henare said it was up to the younger generation now to revitalise te reo.

“Our older people were not allowed to speak it but now I can see cultural changes in Aotearoa. More people are starting to take it upon themselves, learning a few words here and there. Working with Maori, if can you speak te reo they will really connect with you.

“It is all about the connection with the tangata and also the whenua.”

Kupu taiao — environment words

Te taiao — The environment

Te waonui o Tane Mahuta — Native forest

Te waonui o Tangaroa — Ocean

Ngahere — Forest

Kaitiakitanga — Guardianship, protection, a way of managing the environment based on the Maori world view

Manaakitanga — Respect, care

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