Ngāi Tahu on a journey to become more visible on its whenua

Ngāi Tahu is on a journey to become more visible on its whenua.

Lynne Harata Te Aika is a reo champion - who is part of the revitalisation that began 20 years ago.

"People didn't know there were Māori living in Te Wai Pounamu," she told The Hui.

"Because they didn't hear the language being spoken so I guess we were kind of invisible in our own environment."

Ngāi Tahu is re-claiming its identity and reo in Ōtautahi after the Canterbury earthquakes.

"My hope is that our narrative will become stronger and will be inter generational like our language," Te Aika said.

As a cultural advisor and iwi historian, Te Aika is bringing the iwi's stories back to life through architecture. 

Like at Te Omeka - or the new justice precinct where te Kahu Matarau depicts a 36-metre korowai made of kakapo feathers.  

"There's an opportunity now with rebuilds of buildings or new builds to actually put our stories in the building on the outside of the building and to retell and re indigenise the landscape," said Te Aika.

Because growing up, Te Aika didn't hear these stories or Ngāi Tahu's reo. 

The inter-generational loss of te reo Māori running deep within her Ngāi Tahu whānau.

"My tupuna that was fluent in te reo would have been around the 1860's to 1880's - Aperehama Te Aika and five generations to me," Te Aika explained.

And her mum - despite being a native speaker - never taught her tamariki te reo.

"I kind of wondered why she hadn't raised us speaking te reo but that's the generation who were punished for speaking te reo."

Like many iwi - Ngai Tahu's loss of reo and identity is tied to the confiscation of land - with 34 million acres illegally taken by the Crown.

The change started in 1997 when Ngāi Tahu signed its Treaty settlement - and the iwi began its fight to restore its culture and reo.

Twenty years ago, the iwi launched Kotahi Mano Kāika - a language strategy to have 1000 homes speaking Ngāi Tahu's reo.

As part of the strategy, Te Aika trained teachers in te reo Māori at Te Whare Wānanga o Waitaha - and she's seeing the benefits of the strategy with her whanau.

"My mother passed earlier in the year and we had four generations of speakers."

"Once I raised my children learning te reo and to speak in te reo that then helped my mum bring back all that reo - to me that's the best living example of language revitalisation."

Te Aika's reo journey is continuing with the Matapopore Charitable Trust - which ensures mana whenua has a say in the urban design process.

"It's taken fires, floods, earthquakes and other disasters for us to actually be recognized in our partnership with the city.

"But that's working very well at the moment."

Ensuring future generations know their reo and identity has a firm foundation in Waitaha.

"It's very rewarding to see the mokopuna who are probably actually more fluent than their parents were at their age - that's probably the most personally rewarding gift for me is the mokopuna."

The Hui