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One Migrant’s Journey With Te Reo Māori

“I felt more connected”: One migrant’s journey with Te Reo Māori

For Glenna Casalme, originally from the Philippines, there is something about Te Reo Māori that pulls energy from the ground and puts it directly into her heart.

After arriving in New Zealand in 2008, Glenna felt disconnected and like a floating spirit until Te Reo Māori opened up a different world before her – te ao Māori, the Māori world.

“If you’re a migrant like me, you know what that’s like – to be disconnected from your home – to have no footing, no tūrangawaewae,” Ms Casalme said.

“Te Reo Māori became my link to New Zealand – ko tōku hononga ki te whenua. The more I studied, the deeper my roots grew.”

Glenna’s Reo journey began in 2009 when she was directing a story for the TV programme Asia Downunder about a Japanese doctorate student learning kapa haka.

“The class was practising the waiata Ki Kō, Ki Kō, and I was instantly taken by Te Reo Māori,” she said.

As soon as she gained residence status, she began to formally attend classes.

“Despite life being busy, I always managed to get a bit of Reo into my life – through work, the TV, or night classes. A different side of me started to emerge. I gained more confidence as a New Zealander. I felt more connected,” she said.

For Glenna, a current tauira (student) at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa, Te Reo Māori is a taonga – a treasure that has been loaned to her.

“I do not own it. It was not my ancestors who spoke it. So I carry this privilege carefully, with much aroha. If you are fortunate enough to learn it, treat it with respect, and it will keep giving back,” she said.

“For me, Te Reo is the beginning – the first step in a genuine relationship with the land and its people, and I cannot wait to see where it takes me. Never have I felt more like I belong in Aotearoa,” she said.

Glenna Casalme shared her personal journey with Te Reo Māori as part of the Shaping our futures together – Kia Hono hui co-hosted by Belong Aotearoa and Te Wānanga o Aotearoa this week.

The hui celebrated and encouraged use of Te Reo Māori across newcomer communities, people from migrant and refugee backgrounds, to support a strong sense of belonging.

According to Rahul Watson Govindan, Chair of Belong Aotearoa, every one of us can contribute to the revitalisation of the language and it will nourish every one of us in return.

“Through Te Reo Māori we can build relationships and strengthen solidarity between tangata whenua and tangata tiriti – and create communities where people have a true sense of belonging,” he said.

“I hope the hui inspired people from diverse backgrounds to start their Te Reo Māori journey or progress their journey even further,” Mr Watson Govindan said.

Te Wānanga o Aotearoa Executive Director, Marketing & Tauira Services, Hone Paul says supporting Belong Aotearoa is proving to be an inspiration.

“The stories we hear from people who are finding Te Reo Māori helps them settle into life in Aotearoa while also honouring their own whakapapa are heartwarming. We value the diversity they bring and while they learn from us, we also learn from them. Together we are moving forward together into a brighter future.”

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