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Passing of Dame Kāterina Te Heikōkō Mataira

Hon Tariana Turia and Hon Dr Pita Sharples
Maori Party Co-Leaders
Saturday 16 July 2011


Kua hinga te totara haemata o te Tai Rawhiti, ka haruru te whenua!

Mai i te tihi o Hikurangi maunga ki te wahapu o Waiapu, e rere ana te waipuke roimata!

E te koka, e te kahurangi, e te ruahine, nou anake te reo i wahangu i tenei wa. Huri noa i te motu, kua tangi nga reo o nga iwi, o nga marae, o nga kainga, o nga kura ki te mate rongonui o te wa!

Katerina, Te Heikoko, nau te marama i ki, he tangiweto. Nau ano to iwi Maori i whakatangiweto, he aroha ki a koe kua wheturangitia, ki to whanau hoki e noho pani ana i to taha.

He tangi aroha ano hoki ki nga mahi kua oti i a koe - ki nga pukapuka i tuhia e koe, hei whakaoho i te wairua Maori, hei wero i te hinengaro; ki nga kura kua whakaturia i runga ano i te kaupapa Maori i horahia e koe, mai ra ano i te Aho Matua; a, ki nga whanau e kaha ana ki te korero Maori, na Te Ataarangi i penei ai.

Katerina, e te hoa pumau, e te toa maia ki te pakanga mo te reo Maori, ma matou o mahi e hapai. Kua rongo Te Paepae Motuhake i o whakahau, kua rongo hoki te Ropu Whakamana i te Tiriti o Waitangi, kia riro te rangatiratanga o te reo i nga whanau e korero ana i nga wa katoa.

Ahakoa kua haere koe, kei te rongo tonu matou i to reo tohutohu E kore te reo rangatira e tukuna kia whai atu i a koe ki te Po!

The Maori Party joins the whole of Aotearoa today in mourning the passing of Dame Kāterina Te Heikōkō Mataira, who has been at the forefront of Maori language revival for over four decades.

Dr Mataira, of Ngati Porou, has earned universal respect for the passion she has helped to generate in the revival of te reo Maori, through her influence as an artist and writer, a scholar and intellectual, a grass-roots organiser and teacher, and, of course, a visionary leader.

Dame Katerina was born in Tokomaru Bay in 1932 and trained as a teacher and art educator. She has nine children with her husband Junior Te Ratu Karepa Mataira and 50 mokopuna, including one great-great-grandchild.

“Katerina was inspired by The ‘Silent Way’ method of language teaching developed by Caleb Cattengo, and she adapted it for teaching Maori,” said Dr Pita Sharples, Maori Party Co-leader, Minister of Maori Affairs and lifelong friend of Katerina.

“With her tuakana, the late Kumeroa Ngoi Pewhairangi, they launched the unique language revitalisation movement we know as Te Ataarangi, Dr Sharples said.

“Thirty years later, Te Ataarangi is recognised as one of the significant programmes to address the revitalization of te reo Maori amongst non-speaking Maori adults, a flagship for te reo Maori.

“Kāterina was emphatic that our language will survive in our whānau, our homes and our communities. Indeed, ‘Kia kōrero Māori te motu whānui”, is the motto of Te Ātaarangi.

"I remember when Te Ataarangi first came out" recalled Tariana Turia, Co-leader of the Maori Party. "'George and I used to turn up at the marae, me with my pencil and paper - and they would promptly tell me to put away my 'Pakeha brain' - it was all "Whakarongo! Titiro! Korero!".

“We also think of Katerina as the mother of kura kaupapa Maori,” Dr Sharples said.

“She established the very first kura kaupapa Maori at Hoani Waititi Marae, with Aroha Paenga and myself, and went on to design the philosophy, curriculum and pedagogy for kura kaupapa Maori which she laid down in Te Aho Matua.”

“Dame Katerina has published a number of award winning picture books in Maori for children including winning Lianza's Te Kura Pounamu Maori Book Award in 1996 for Marama Tangiweto and in 1997 for He Tino Kuia Taku Kuia (My Kuia is a Special Kuia).

“But perhaps the most profound example of her excellence as a writer, is her groundbreaking corpus of novels in Maori.

“Te Ātea was revolutionary when it appeared in 1975 – sophisticated science fiction expressed in te reo Māori and complemented by the artwork of Para Matchitt. Thirty years later, she created the sequel, Rēhua. Her historical novel for teenagers, Makorea, was developed into a radio serial by Te Taura Whiri in association with Te Reo Irirangi o Te Upoko o Te Ika.”

“Last month, in the 2011 Queens Birthday Awards, the highest honour was bestowed on Dame Katerina as a tribute to more than forty years of leadership and scholarship in the Maori language revival movement,” said Co-Leader Tariana Turia.

“When Dame Katerina was asked how she would like to celebrate she replied, ‘I would like to dance’”.

“Although she was too ill to do that, all of her little girl mokopuna gathered on the front lawn of her house and did just that, trailing beautiful ribbons behind them.

“That is the gift Dame Katerina has given the world – that her words help us to dance, to feel the joy, the passion, the exuberance that she invested in our future,” said Mrs Turia. "She will be sadly missed by us all".

Other Awards and Honours

• In 1987 Katerina was appointed a foundation member of the Maori Language Commission. The New Zealand Academy of the Humanities has bestowed on her the Pou Aronui Award for distinguished service to the humanities-aronui.

• In 1998 the Rapanui people, whose language was under the threat of extinction, invited Katerina to Easter Island to help develop a language recovery programme.

• In 1996 Waikato University awarded her an honorary doctorate for her contribution to the revival of te reo Maori. A year later she was named in the Queens Honours List in recognition of her contribution to New Zealand.

• In 2001, Dr Mataira was awarded the Te Waka Toi Exemplary Award for her crucial role in the renaissance of te reo Maori.

• In 2009 she was awarded The Linguapax Award which is an international honour which recognises the preservation and promotion of mother languages as essential vehicles of identity and cultural expression.

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