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Clash of opinions on Cook Islands Māori language

Thursday 4 July 2024 | Written by Melina Etches | Published in Culture, Education, National

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Clash of opinions on Cook Islands Māori language
Māori Debate2: Te Mapu Taurekareka O Nikao debate team of Ben Patia, Anjima Ruarau, and Kuraiti Rasmussen sang a lively Ute for their introduction on stage. MELINA ETCHES/ 24070316

The Mapu Taurekareka O Nikao, Pa Enua, Rangiatea Matavera, and Vaka Puaikura teams presented vigorous ‘akatika’ (For) and pātoi (Against) sentiments in the 'Epetoma ō te reo Māori Kūki 'Āirani debate competition on Wednesday.

Mapu Taurekareka O Nikao members Ben Patia, Anjima Ruarau, and Kuraiti Rasmussen thrilled the audience by singing a lively Ute while taking the stage for the debate that was themed on “Toku Reo e turanga ketaketa ia no toku ora’anga”.

Opposing the theme, Anjima Ruarau said that Māori language is not used as often as it should be or well-spoken at events since the English language is used on many official occasions and that people tend to speak English for the benefit of only a few – in any audience.

Kuraiti Rasmussen also on the ‘pātoi’ panel said: “Te ketaketa ai nei? Kare, ia te tumu? Kare te Are Karioi e ki ia tatou – no te mea kare tatou i kite i te puapinga i to tatou reo…Our language is not effective and people do not understand or value the importance of our language."

Rasmussen also noted that in Parliament, the Members speak in English during Parliament Sittings, and that school lessons are taught in English.

She said the Cook Islands National Arts Theatre delegation in Hawai’i only sang in Māori – "everything else was spoken in English".

Papa Terai Williams said to prove that you are Māori all that’s needed is a birth certificate and a stamp. He emphasised that reo Māori language does not identify you as a Kūki 'Āirani Kuki - a stamp does.

Toka Toka spoke for the ‘akatika’ panel and supported the theme that reo Māori is robust and alive giving the example of the ancestors already understanding the significance of language as an identity when they translated the Bible into reo Māori.