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Names of towns and cities should revert to Maori language

Names of towns and cities should revert to Maori language, says former All Black

July 23, 2014

New Zealand should change the names of its towns and cities to Maori language, former All Black, New Zealand Maori, Sevens rugby player and University of Canterbury double graduate Dallas Seymour says.

This week is Maori Language Week and Seymour feels cities and place names should progressively be known and spoken about as their Maori names, such as Christchurch being called Otautahi.

“We need to celebrate our combined heritage. As a country based on the Westminster system we may be only 170-odd years old but as a nation we have 1000 years of history and heritage at our fingertips. Having te reo visible daily makes it normal and an everyday part of life, which it should be.

“Knowing the Maori names, not just transliterations, of any place has meaning behind it and celebrates the heritage of our people who were here well before any migration and it adds to the richness of our country. It’s like the old tourism advertisement from 1984: Don’t leave town until you’ve seen the country.”

Seymour, of the Ngati Hikairo iwi, earned bachelor of science and forestry degrees at Te Whare Wananga o Waitaha, commonly known as the University of Canterbury. He learned to speak te reo at St Stephen’s School in south Auckland, at university and is still learning, he says.

“My Nanny spoke a little to us when we were kids but not much. She was of the generation that were punished for speaking her reo, so unfortunately there was a big gap in the inter-generational transmission of te reo in our family.

“There are a number of my generation and younger who are getting stuck into our reo which is really cool. We have learned our reo from teachers, lecturers, tutors, mentors and whanau. Kapa haka was awesome at St Stephens as it was an immersion environment of sorts, learning about the poeticisms and nuances of te reo.

“I have done some total immersion and while it’s tough at the start being a rae poto (new to te reo) I really recommend it. Being at home in Kawhia among our old people and whanau is the best learning environment as I’m learning my mita (pronunciation) and reo.

“More often I hear young kids around, commonly kohanga or kura raised, speaking it in everyday environments. It is awesome to hear and they teach me as well.

“Our reo is unique. It’s part of our fabric as a nation. It’s the window to our culture and is a key to unlocking our potential as a country. If we lose it we all lose. Learning words during Maori Language week is a start but it’s not enough really. The beauty of te reo is in its entirety. Adding to our vocabulary is a simple, easily achievable goal. If we’re not moving forward and learning we’re stagnating.

“I have woven te reo into my speaking engagements. Any chance to speak it, I challenge myself and it is important for te reo to be heard here and abroad. It’s amazing, but not surprising, the doors it opens and relationships it helps to cultivate overseas with other cultures.

“Higher learning is essential to New Zealand and its people. We have our own wananga of higher learning in Kawhia and I really enjoyed my time at the University of Canterbury and I’d recommend it to anyone. I’m enjoying coaching back at university rugby club and connecting with the current crop of students. Adding to our vocabulary is a simple, easily achievable goal. If we’re not moving forward and learning we’re stagnating,” Seymour says.


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