Maranga Mai! Te Reo and Marae in Crisis?

Edited by Merata Kawharu


Maranga mai! Our people. We have become complacent. Our language and our marae are struggling. Yet we remain asleep. We need to wake up! – Merimeri Penfold, Taitokerau kuia


From the time of the Māori renaissance of the 1970s and 1980s, Māori made huge efforts to reinvigorate te reo and the life of marae as the twin cornerstones of Māori identity. Māori television and radio stations were set up, the Māori Language Commission established and kōhanga reo, kura kaupapa and wananga emerged. Old marae gained new coats of paint and new marae were established on sites ranging from urban university campuses to rural communities.

But have the efforts really worked? Now, in 2013, are te reo and marae in crisis? The number of children in kōhanga reo is down 34 per cent from its peak. Only 15 per cent of Māori children are attending Māori-medium schooling. And fewer and fewer people are participating in marae activities. Without a living language spoken regularly on the marae, what is the future for Māori culture?

Focusing on Tai Tokerau, the northern region of New Zealand, as a case study but with conclusions applicable across the country, the leading Māori scholars and elders in Maranga Mai! call for their people to wake up to these challenges. Through stories and statistics, demography and policy, they identify the key issues and pose potential solutions.

Edited by anthropologist Merata Kawharu and with a foreword by Erima Henare, chairman of the Māori Language Commission, the book’s other contributors include Ngāti Kurī kuia Merimeri Penfold, whose contribution in contemporary Tai Tokerau te reo is also translated into English; anthropologist Paul Tapsell; kaumātua Hone Sadler, with a text in te reo with English translation; linguist Arapera Ngaha; Kevin Robinson, chief executive of Te Rūnanga o Te Rarawa; educationalist Margie Hohepa; kaumātua Fraser Toi; sociologist Stephen McTaggart; lawyer Kiri Toki; emerging scholars Paratene Tane and Jade Aikman-Dodd; film-maker Michael Hennessy; and photographer Krzysztof Pfeiffer .


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Merata Kawharu MNZM (Ngāti Whatua, Ngāpuhi) is the director of research at the James Henare Māori Research Centre at the University of Auckland. A Rhodes Scholar, she is a graduate in anthropology and Māori studies from the University of Auckland and has a DPhil from Oxford in social anthropology. In 2012, she was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit (MNZM) for her services to Māori education. Kawharu is a member of the New Zealand Geographic Board Ngā Pou Taunaha o Aotearoa. She is the editor of Whenua: Managing Our Resources (Reed, 2002), a finalist in the 2003 Montana Book Awards, and Tāhuhu Kōrero: The Sayings of Taitokerau (Auckland University Press, 2008), which won the Te Reo Māori category at the Ngā Kupu Ora Book Awards in 2009.


May 2014, 230 x 165 mm, 280 pages, colour illustrations
Paperback, ISBN 978 1 86940 805 3, $45