Māori Language Week

2 July 2013

It’s Maori Language Week – and this year’s theme is Ngā Ingoa Māori (Māori names).

Man sitting on long bench at Oruaiti Reserve.

Ōruaiti Reserve

Since 1975, the annual week has helped highlight the importance of te reo Māori to New Zealand and supported arohatia te reo - love for the language.

This year’s theme aims to encourage people to consider the meaning behind place names, learn the correct pronunciation, and generally use Māori names for things, people and places more often.

Port Nicholson Block Settlement Trust Heritage Advisor Morris Te Whiti Love believes the country has made big strides with the use and pronunciation of Māori names, but says we can still do better.

“While we’re certainly light years ahead of where we were back in the 1970s, I think there’s still room for improvement. As well as being an important way of fostering te reo, learning the meaning behind Māori names for things and places can offer fascinating insights into the history and mythology of our nation.”

Here are some local examples:

Ōruaiti (formerly Point Dorset) - translating to ‘place of the small pit’ (where kūmara and potatoes were stored) this headland, between Seatoun and Breaker Bay, was the site of a significant pā in pre-European times. It was also an important area for horticulture – and may be where the rua potato was first cultivated.

Karori - derived from Karore, the name for the special snare rope traps Māori used while hunting birds in Karori’s ancient forests.

Te Whanganui-a-Tara (Wellington Harbour) - translates to ‘the great harbour of Tara’.

According to tradition, Tara was the founding father of Māori settlers in Wellington, arriving here in the 12th century from what is now known as Hawkes Bay.

Whataitai (Hataitai) - the name of one of the two taniwha (sea monsters) that according to mythology helped create Wellington Harbour from what was originally a large lake.

Tangi te Keo (Mount Victoria) - legend has it that while trying to follow his brother Ngake out of the harbour, Whataitai became exhausted and stranded on the southern shore and eventually died. His soul then took the form of a bird named te Keo, which flew to the top of what is now Mount Victoria and wept for the taniwha. Hence the name Tangi te Keo - ‘the weeping of te Keo’.

See a list of events happening around the city for Māori Language Week (1 - 7 July) in our Matariki calandar:  

Events - Matariki 2013

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