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Flavell: Endangered Languages Conference

Wednesday, 12 September 2012, 5:17 pm
Speech: The Maori Party
XVI Foundation for Endangered Languages Conference - Language Endangerment in the 21st Century:
Globalisation, Technology and New Media

Ngā Wai o Horotiu Marae, AUT University

Wednesday 12 September 2012
Te Ururoa Flavell; MP for Waiariki

Forty years ago on 14 September 1972, history was made as a roopu marched on to the steps of Parliament, carrying with them a petition containing the signatures of thirty thousand New Zealanders.

I have a photograph of that day and in the spirit of this important hui, I want to reflect on the faces that fronted the long walk for the preservation and protection of te reo Māori.

Te Ouenuku (Joe) Rene heads the pathway to parliament. Next to him was Koro Te Kapunga Matemoana Dewes; Hana Hemara; Sid Jackson and resplendent in his afro, Rawiri Paratene.

Also at the front of the line was Cathy Dewes, Rawiri Rangitauira; Whaimutu Dewes; Joe Te Rito; Rangi Nicholson, Lee Smith; Reverend Hemi Potatau; Huirangi Waikerepuru; Jamie Schuster and a long line of others.

Prominent in the background of the photo is the defiant statue of Richard John Seddon, a former Prime Minister, his right arm raised in the air. There are two important pieces of evidence in the archives that suggest why the statue of Premier Seddon is a vital part of this historic day. The first is a photograph of the Premier at Papawai Marae – the site of Kotahitanga, the Māori Parliament.

We have reports of the sessions of this parliament recorded in Huia Tangata Kotahi – a Māori language newspaper published by Ihaia Hutana from 1893 to 1895. Amongst its recommendations, the Māori Parliament passed a resolution to end the sale of Māori land.

The second treasure from the archives, is another photograph from September 1895 – and it features a deputation of Urewera chiefs visiting Richard John Seddon at his ministerial residence in Wellington. Out of that visit, came the Urewera District Native Reserve Act, which was passed on 12 October 1896. This is a fascinating statute, which essentially legislates for the process of self-government for Ngāi Tuhoe through a General Committee representing the various iwi and hapū of the region.

All these three photographic exhibits, when brought together, compile a rich whariki from which to consider the endangered position of our language.

In these three images we span across a century; we are faced with a range of political, cultural and sociological statements that connect us to this time, this place, this hui.

24 hours ago came the announcement that the Crown and Ngāi Tuhoe will work to develop a Deed of Settlement.

A century after the Urewera chiefs sat on Premier Seddon’s front lawn, legislation is finally being enacted which promotes mana motuhake for Tuhoe. In outlining the importance of this settlement, Minister Finlayson spoke of a travesty of justice – in which the land was wrongly confiscated; a staged process of extermination was applied against Tuhoe prisoners and civilians; and the Crown employed a scorched earth policy in which their crops and buildings were destroyed; their livelihood shattered.

One hundred years since the 1896 Urewera Act, the Crown is finally recognising the unique status of Te Urewera; and in an effort to bridge the gap in the evolving relationship, Ngāi Tuhoe and the Crown have created an innovative platform for their future.

Our language, our history speaks to our present, it speaks to us now at this hui.

Tinirau of Whanganui said:

Toi te kupu, toi te mana, toi te whenua

The language, prestige and land will endure. Without these three, Māori culture will cease to exist.

I have drawn on this context, to introduce this kōrero, to remind us of the importance of the people; the language; the whenua; the legislation; and the leadership that has characterised our mutual histories in this land.