This Matariki we would like you to meet our 'reo hapū' Te Puna Ihi Manaaki, based at Hikoikoi Pā on the shores of Pito-one.
The hapū was established to provide a support system for its members who are learning māori. There are weekly classes to help improve proficiency like any weekly class. The difference here are the added elements of language revitalisation, whānau reo plans and mentoring to give members confidence to use their reo out in the community and more importantly in the home. Te Puna Ihi Manaaki embraces whānaungatanga, manaakitanga and ngākau maahaki. All equally important tikanga that help the reo to thrive.
It's hard work to commit to a weekly evening class especially with whānau commitments , work commitments and all the other commitments life seems to throw at you the minute you decide you want to learn Māori.
The first few months of any learning journey we call the 'honeymoon' period. Life is exciting, and new, intriguing and fun. It's usually raumati so the evenings are warm and light. As a beginner you learn your first few kupu, then maybe a phrase! The first few weeks breeze by and suddenly you're saying 'Kia Ora' to everyone on the street! But as the 'marriage' continues, 'ordinary' settles in, other life commitments pop up, hōtoke rolls in and those warm raumati evenings are but a distant reo memory. Learning gets harder as vocab lists get longer, sentence structures are not that appealing and you find yourself sitting by your fireplace instead of at your evening reo class. A collective gasp from all of our students! They know! Yes we know! We know and understand how easy it is to stay home instead of venturing out into the cold pō to your reo class, we know that sometimes you're tired from every day life and just want a kapu tī and to go to bed. We know! We know how hard it is!
We also know that society is not supportive of reo Māori use. People find it hard to use their reo outside of the classroom because other reo speakers you can converse with are so rare and the opportunities and places to speak Māori are mostly non existent. You don't need reo Māori to pay your bills, to speak to your doctor, buy your groceries, pick the kids up from school, write an email or buy a flat white . Regardless of whether your intentions to learn were strong or not, it is hard for anyone to learn and use a language that isn't being used on a regular basis. Language is cruel, use it or loose it.
Te Puna Ihi Manaaki is about 'knowing all of this' and supporting you through your learning in spite of what life has to throw at you. Our focus is not only teaching reo Māori but teaching you how to utilise reo Māori in your every day life so that it's with you at every moment. So when it feels like an uphill battle you have the tools and know how to keep climbing. Having a supportive community behind you provides that extra push to go further or a soft landing if you fall. It can then pick you up and get you moving again.
We are still in the early stages of our reo hapū and still getting to know one another, but our desire to speak Māori has strengthened our connection to each other as we try to help each other a long the way. We celebrated Matariki together with a hangi , made pizza's on pizza night and spent a term making rewana together. There is kōrero of starting up waka ama roopu for over 50's and trips to reo symposiums planned. We have started a māra kai which is a fantastic opportunity to learn the skills and tikanga of whakatipu kai. It is a joint project with other communities at Hikoikoi Pā but the exciting part is that it will be a reo Māori only māra kai, creating a place where our hapū can use their reo.
There will be trying times ahead but no journey is without its difficulties. We are bound to loose a few members as they discover that this journey is not for them but the reward at the end is knowing that we have helped individuals become strong reo advocates for themselves and their whānau. Who knows how many generations that will effect in the future.