Over at Mars 2 Earth, Marty had a great post about Maori voices in the blogosphere which drew the comment “How many of you actually speak Maori?”. And this begs the question, does one need to be fluent in Te Reo to comment on Maori issues?
I cannot speak Te Reo fluently. That is not to say that I have no understanding of the language completely. I have over the years many several attempts to learn Te Reo and I can follow basic conversations. Honestly, the inability to speak Te Reo fluently causes me great shame and I am currently taking active steps to learn. I grew up in a distinctly Pakeha household and it was not until I reached the end of my high school years that I became fully attuned to my identity as Maori. Our whanau literally had Te Reo beaten out of us and it has taken a concerted effort by several of my Aunty’s to reintroduce Te Reo into our lives.
However, my inability to speak Te Reo fluently does not disqualify me from commenting on issues of Maori law and politics. I have spent the past five years working and studying in this field and I understand the issues involved. Yet, I know I will be a better Maori lawyer, political analyst, and writer when I can speak Te Reo. Some Maori concepts can only be properly communicated in Te Reo. That is why I am advancing my efforts to speak Te Reo.
Te Reo is a vital part of who we are as Maori. But I do not believe that it is the be-all-and-end-all. What is more important is a commitment to the advancement of Maori tino rangatiratanga.
What do you think?