Treaty of Waitangi and Wai 11: Te reo Māori claim, 1985-1987

Ka ngaro te reo, ka ngaro taua, pera i te ngaro o te Moa. If the language be lost, man will be lost, as dead as the moa.

In the Second Article of the translation of the Māori text of the Treaty of Waitangi, it is interpreted that the Crown shall protect the ‘treasures’ of the chiefs and sub-tribes of Aotearoa…. In 1985, the ‘Te Reo Māori Claim Wai 11‘ was submitted recognizing the status and use of te reo Māori in legal contexts. In 1986, following much deliberation about the Wai 11 Claim, the Waitangi tribunal concluded that the ‘Māori language’ was rightfully deemed as a ‘treasure’ as encapsulated in the following statement:

When the question for decision is whether te reo Maori is a ‘taonga’ which the Crown is obliged to recognise we conclude that there can be only one answer. It is plain that the language is an essential part of the culture and must be regarded as ‘a valued possession’. The claim itself illustrates that fact, and the wide representation from all corners of Maoridom in support of it underlines and emphasises the point. …

We question whether the principles and broad objectives of the Treaty can ever be achieved if there is not a recognised place for the language of one of the partners to the Treaty. In the Maori perspective the place of the language in the life of the nation is indicative of the place of the people.

The Waitangi Tribunal

In 1987, one year following the report, te reo Māori was established as the official language of Aotearoa and the Māori Language Commission was set up “to foster it, watch over its progress and set standards for its use” (Te reo Māori claim Wai 11. (1986, p. 6).

There is no doubt that these were significant years and that they should be remembered and celebrated in the long history and struggle of te reo Māori to gain its rightful place in Aotearoa. We have witnessed certain events unfolding across history being brought to the forefront of critical issues impacting Māori by those who have had the courage and vision to make them happen. We have yet to witness more events unfold that will further the cause and raise the status and use of te reo Māori across the nation.

I celebrate Waitangi Day, this day of Wednesday, 6 June, 2013 in terms of Article 2 of the Treaty of Waitangi and also to commemorate those people who were instrumental in the ‘Wai 11: Te Reo Māori Claim, the recognition of te reo as the official language and the establishment of the Māori Language Commission.

Mei kore ake koutou, kua ngaro tāua pērā i te ngaro o te moa. Nga mihi.

see a summary or full report of the Te Reo Māori Claim Wai 11 here.

Cited: http://www.waitangi-tribunal.govt.nz/reports/summary.asp?reportid=%7B6113B0B0-13B5-400A-AFC7-76F76D3DDD92%7D

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