Former Labour Minister Dover Samuels calls for Crown apology for caning children speaking Te Reo

As more New Zealanders embrace te reo Māori, it's important to remember it wasn't that long ago the language was banned in schools.

Former Labour Minister Dover Samuels can remember being beaten for speaking Te Reo in school as early as five years old. 

He is now calling for the Crown to apologise to all Ngapuhi children caned for speaking Te Reo at school. 

Samuels is in his eighties now but the trauma of being beaten for speaking te reo Māori at school still fills him with anger and pain. 

"The teacher made it very clear, leave your language behind, leave your culture behind, and, of course, leave your horse behind," Samuels tells Newshub.

"You come in here to learn English and if you speak your language, if you speak your Te Reo in the school grounds, you'll be strapped, you'll be caned and you'll be punished."

Samuels attended Whakarara Native School in Matauri Bay in the 1940s. Today, the school name has changed but the school still stands today. 

Instead of 'gate closed at all times' it said 'you're not allowed to speak Māori at all times'.

Samuels believes that removing Te Reo was all part of the wider plan to brutally colonise the country. 

"When you get a teacher that is six-foot, swinging this [cane] and you're bending over, as a young child, you see the bruising and sometimes the blood," Samuels says.

"I mean, you couldn't get away from it. 

"And a lot of the swings went below the shorts and landed on your legs, on the back of your legs.

"And the welts were very obvious, very obvious. 

In 2015, Samuels made a submission to the Waitangi Tribunal on behalf of all Ngapuhi children caned at school for speaking Te Reo asking for an apology, but none has been formally offered.

"I've heard people say, 'well, we were all naughty behind the bike shed' but hang on - you didn't get brutalized and caned for speaking your Te Reo," Samuels tells Newshub.

"As young Māori children, part of the native school being brutalized and whipped for no other reason, but speaking our reo rangatira."

Samuels has been waiting 70 years for an apology he feels is thoroughly deserved. 

"I believe that a sincere apology and the recognition of the injustice by the Crown on what happened to that generation," he says.

"To me, it is not genuine and not complete if it doesn't actually understand the beginning of the journey."

If Samuels was to receive an apology, he feels it would honour the "trailblazers" for speaking Māori. 

Watch the full story above.