Opinion: As a Te Reo speaker, 'Te Wiki' can be anxiety inducing

R&R hosts Eru Paranihi and K'Lee McNabb on set
R&R hosts Eru Paranihi and K'Lee McNabb on set

Mātua rā, kei te mihi au ki a Hana Te Hemara nō Ngā Tamatoa rātou ko te Pāpori Māori o Te Herenga Waka. He mea whakatūwhera tēnei kaupapa nā rātou, arā, ko Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori. I kaha whawhaitia tēnei pakanga kia taea e tātou te ako, te kōrero, tō tātou reo. 

When you're the only fluent Te Reo Māori speaker amongst your colleagues, 'Te Wiki' can often feel like Christmas, with you as Santa Claus.

For one week of the year, it’s your time to shine but for the rest of the 51 weeks, you’re surplus to requirements. You go back to being Saint Nick. 

Joking aside, I often dread Māori language week when it comes around and often think about why this is. Is it the suspicion of tokenism, the concern that people using it are doing so just to tick the box? Personally, I don’t see it that way.

For so many of us carrying the flag for Ngāi Māori, there's a big responsibility to make sure that the Mana, or integrity, is upheld. In my experience, we as Māori can often be the staunchest critics.

If something is incorrect, you'll hear about it until the cows come home but we’re also the strongest advocates. Angitū o te kotahi, angitū o te katoa, as my sister, Jacinta ,once said to me, when one makes it, we all make it.

The reason I dread Te Wiki is simply for the fact that once it finishes, life goes back to normal for the most of us yet for many, Te Wiki is every wiki. 

I take my hat off to te reo Māori teachers at mainstream schools. Week in and week out, I know that on top of your hectic role you're also the kapa haka tutor, the pōwhiri organiser,  the kaikaranga if you're a woman, or the kaikōrero if you're a man.

On top of that, you're probably the guitarist leading the waiata too. You're also the go-to when someone needs you to translate something into "Tah - Rayo”.

I want to use this platform to let you know that we see you. We see and acknowledge what you do for our kaupapa when others might not.

This year at Mediaworks we've had the opportunity to roll out some new Te Wiki initiatives including Te Reo classes and one-on-ones for presenters to ensure the Mana of the language is upheld.

As a result, I’ve seen the staff as a whole grow in confidence with the language. There's still a long way to go, but a start’s a start, right? Perhaps it's a step away from the tokenistic approach and toward normalising the language so that every week can be Māori Language Week. Tūwhitia te hopo, mairangatia te angitū - fight the fear and do it anyway.  

In 1972 a petition was put forward in parliament to establish Te reo Māori in schools. The late Hana Te Hemara (née Jackson) along with Victoria University’s Māori society collected 30,000 signatures as part of their fight for the language.

Three years later Te Wiki o te reo Māori was established but 45-years on, just how far have we come? Is this what they envisioned for Te Wiki’? Perhaps not but personally, I relish the role of Santa Claus.

Eru Paranihi is one of the hosts of Three’s R&R and a producer for The AM Show