My reo journey started several years ago. I was sitting in a school office where a teacher spoke to me in Te Reo Māori. He asked, "how are you? And what are you doing here?" At that moment, I didn't know what he said or how to reply to him. At this moment, I felt embarrassed and inadequate and realised how disconnected I was from my culture.
It never phased me growing up to learn Te Reo Māori. I was always surrounded by Māori culture and hakas etc. So I didn't feel the need to learn Te Reo Māori.
From that day, my eyes, heart and ears opened up to things Māori. I was in my early twenties, questioning my whakapapa, roots, and where I was from. I started to unravel my identity and noticed the holes where pieces were missing, and Te Reo Māori was a huge hole.
In 2013 I took an opportunity to travel to Aotearoa to interact with as many kaupapa Māori and communities within one year with a group of rangatahi Māori. This haerenga exposed me to many Māori environments, and in many instances, I struggled in the deep end. For example, we attended Kura Reo, sat in 3hr long powhiri, attended Kura kaupapa and wharekura, and sat at the feet of rangatira Māori most of the time. I had no idea what was going on, which left me feeling vulnerable, out of my depth to the point of crying and overwhelmed.
Language trauma is a thing; I felt disabled, I couldn't communicate, I didn't understand, and it was heavy and mamae. The steps I took to move through language trauma were; surrounding myself with people fluent in Te Reo Māori who were caring and supportive.
I realised that being chucked into the deep end allowed me to feel the mamae and push through that mamae. I learnt that those challenging moments either build you or break you. So I went on to study Te Reo Māori at the University of Waikato.
The beauty about learning Te Reo Māori is that it comes hand in hand with tikanga Māori and mātauranga Māori. Te Reo Māori has layers in which you learn over time, it's not a language you can learn, and that's it. Many elements exist to understand the language in depth.
It is my dream for my children (to come) that their first language will be Te Reo Māori. I don't want them to experience attending a Pākehā institute to pay to learn their indigenous language. I want them raised confidently, knowing who they are and where they come from.
The level of my reo isn't where I want it to be, but it's better than it was ten years ago. Now, I want to continue upskilling my reo by attending some Kura reo and other reo wānanga etc. But, the journey doesn't stop.
For others on their reo journey - we see you! Keep striving for knowledge. Te wiki o Te Reo Maori is just around the corner - so get as involved as possible and continue learning daily.
I started Taputapu to create Te Reo Māori homeware. I wanted to support others on their reo journey to create a Māori environment at home that would subliminally teach them Te Reo Māori and help them converse in Te Reo Māori every day.