Te Aka Maori Dictionary – Tau ke nei

Te Aka Māori-English, English-Māori Dictionary and Index is a brilliant resource, even if you’re just an amateur Te Reo Māori enthusiast like  me.

You can search in Māori or English.

A bonus are the rather wonderful examples of the word in context:

hei aha [tāu]!
I don’t care what you say! – used to emphasise that the speaker will take no notice of a suggestion because it has no value.
Kāore au e pai ki a Timi, he pākira rawa nō tōna rae. Hei aha tāu, he tangata hūmārie ia. / I don’t like Tim. He’s too bald. I don’t care, he’s a handsome man.

Aurelia’s recently used the phrase “Tau kē nei” – this is so cool, this is so neat. A great term to use when you’ve discovered something you think is worth sharing. And Te Aka deserves it big time!

…and the Dean from Ōtautahi

Having seen Hana O’Regan last year at the LIANZA Conference, I was expecting a passionate presentation from her at the Diversity Forum.  I wasn’t disappointed.

Ms O’Regan is currently the Dean of Te Puna Wānaka, Faculty of Māori and Pasifika Kaiārahi, at CPIT.  Since 2003 she has also been a member of The Māori Language Commission – Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori – a cause which is very close to her heart.

Her talk was based on her personal experiences growing up in Aotearoa, and the way in which the themes of belonging and identity shaped her childhood and her world view.  I particularly related to her description of feeling “defined by fractions”.  This culminated in a traumatic experience when she was 6 years old and lost her hand (which was luckily re-attached through microsurgery).  As if the injury wasn’t distressing enough on its own, Hana was also beset by the fear of losing her “Māori” blood, which, as she was often reminded by society, was just a fraction of her make-up.  Could that fraction be bleeding out of her and her “Māoriness” be lost?

Her identity at school was similarly questioned.  At primary school she was called “nigger”; whereas at Māori boarding school she was a “honkie” because of her light complexion.

We might like to think that events such as these are well in the past; however prejudice still persists.  Ms O’Regan described a recent encounter she had in a supermarket, when an elderly pākehā woman, hearing her speak to her children in te reo, snapped at her to “just shut the hell up”.

So how should we deal with these ongoing challenges? These are Ms O’Regan’s suggestions:

  • Remember the journeys taken by our ancestors – we do have a place where we belong and history says who we are;  and
  • Remember that we are defined not by fractions but by the identity we want.

If you want to read more on these topics, try:

Walking the space between Being Maori-Chinese

Intergenerational transmission of knowledge and extinction…

Well, Day 2 of the Conference is almost over and I have already got screeds of notes. Unfortunately, most are illegible, as I seem to have lost the knack of speed writing, or indeed of any writing at all, now that the keyboard has supplanted the pen in my daily life… So this summary relies mostly on my memory – if you attended the Conference, please do let me know if I have got something wrong!

The first session I attended was the keynote speech by father-and-daughter duo, Sir Tipene and Hana O’Regan.  The focus of their session was the intergenerational transmission of knowledge within Ngai Tahu.  Not surprisingly, father and daughter exemplified the different ways in which knowledge is acquired by different generations, with Sir Tipene favouring the written word, while Hana “waits for the video”.  However, regardless of these differences, both emphasised that the transmission of knowledge entails the inherent selection of knowledge, and therefore the withering of the knowledge that has not made the cut.  As the famous quote says, “history  is written by the winners”, or, in Sir Tipene’s version, “history always forgets the losers”.

So the coming of the potato to Aotearoa led not only to the vanishing of the fern root as a common source of food, but also to the disappearance of songs, poetry and knowledge about its cultivation, preparation, etc.  Similarly the axe took over the pounamu adze, and as Christianity and pork meat became popular, kai takata (cannibalism) vanished, and with it an important part of Ngai Tahu culture (Sir Tipene clearly enjoyed making repeated reference to kai takata, tongue no doubt firmly in cheek).

Much of the session then outlined the priorities and issues that dominated the last 300 years or so of Ngai Tahu history.  There was much to absorb here, but one snippet of information that impressed itself on me was the fact that the whole of pre-European Ngai Tahu history is preserved in written form in only a dozen or so manuscripts, and that half of those are heavily based on the other.

As a language junkie, it was the following statistics, taken from When Languages Die by K. David Harrison (2007), which however most shocked me:

  • In 2001 there were 6912 distinct languages in the world
  • By 2101 only about half of those are likely to still be in existence
  • 47% of languages are under threat. By comparison, “only” 11% of birds, 18% of mammals, 5% of plants  and %8 of plants are in the same position.

Is there hope for Te Reo?  Hana O’Regan is obviously very concerned about this, and with reason: only some 5% of Ngai Tahu are fluent speakers of Te Reo, and almost all are second language learners of Maori, with only 15-20 families currently raising their children in Te Reo at home.  And the language that is being learnt has been sanitised – not surprisingly, few modern parents choose to follow in their predecessors’ footsteps by singing lullabies to their babies describing wars and acts of revenge. 

So where to for us as librarians? I guess that for me, this reinforces the importance of the role that the library can play not only in preserving Maori materials, but also and especially in encouraging the use of Te Reo within our walls, so that this knowledge may be available for the generations to come.  Sir Tipene and Hana O’Regan used Te Whare Mahara (The House of Memories) as a metaphor of the importance of “acknowledging the past, embracing the present and advancing the future”.   I can’t think of many better descriptions of the role of the libraries… What do you think? How can we help preserve Te Reo?