What do Maori
think of it?
Maori people are seeking higher education as never before. Whereas before the war there were only three or four Maori students at Auckland University College, today there are about 35.
The conference of 60 Maori students held in Auckland recently spent most of its time in discussing how the teaching of Maori language and culture in the community can be stimulated.
Remits were sent to the University Senate and to the Government, and in our Editorial, some general comments are made on these remits. We must always keep it in mind that the main purpose of student gatherings is to sharpen the students' wits. This was fully achieved. Nevertheless many outside the universities will find it interesting to listen in and hear what the students said.
It is clear that the gaining of higher learning in the modern arts and sciences has strengthened rather than blunted the students' interest in their own traditions, as one Maori elder put it: “They go away to learn the way of the pakeha yet they come back to our marae and show us the way of the Maori as well.”
Among the observers there were many who exclaimed that the Young Maori Party had come to life again.
Welcoming the delegates to Auckland, the Mayor, Mr J. H. Luxford said it was “wonderful” to have such a gathering of Maori students—people who were interested in and qualifying to grapple with the problems of their people.
Delegates to the conference came from Auckland and Victoria University Colleges, as well as
Auckland students at the Conference: Front, Misses Polly Hopa, Bella Kaa, Mary Royal, E. Kerr, and back, T. Taua and F. Rankin.
Photo: Tom Wong
Student officers for the conference included: Dick Rikihana Chairman, Auckland University College Maori Club, Pat Hohepa, Secretary, Auckland University College Maori Club, Graham Papa Potaka, Treasurer, Auckland University College Maori Club, Ralph Love, Secretary Victoria University College Maori Club, Peter Gordon, student liaison officer, Students' Association Executive. The conference was run by students.
Though several elders and specialists, Maori and pakeha, made helpful contributions, they did not have an undue influence.
Many arguments were put forward to support the case for more Maori language and culture in the education system. Several speakers thought that a more general knowledge of Maori on the part of pakehas and Maoris who do not know the language would be the key to better racial relationships as Maori attitudes and emotions could be fully expressed only in the Maori language. It was argued that it was necessary for Maoris to use the language to express themselves satisfactorily and for pakehas to know the language to understand what was “under the Maori's skin.”
Many at the conference felt that if the status of Maori was raised in education curricula it would be a matter of pride to the Maori people. They would be proud that they were contributing something unique to the national culture. They would feel that they had greater prestige in the community.
Some argued that the language was a necessary tool of Maori culture, that if Maori culture were to survive the language had to survive also as the only media for transmitting the culture.
One rather novel point in favour of a knowledge of Maori was mentioned by Mr Wikiriwhi when he quoted Bishop Panapa as having said that if, at the second coming, the Lord spoke Maori, what would be the use of his coming back if the Maori people did not understand him.
Among the resolutions passed by conference there was one urging the authorities to institute an elementary course in Maori language and culture in the training colleges curricula, as a core subject.
The conference registered its concern at the implications of the Auckland University College ruling that Maori was not acceptable as a modern language unit for degree purposes at that College. It decided to ask that for admission and degree purposes, the language be admitted to the category of modern languages.
It also urged the Auckland College to initiate Maori studies stage III as soon as possible and to investigate the possibility of its extension to the Honours level.
Conference was of course concerned with several subjects other than the teaching of Maori. One was the question of the understanding of Court procedure by the Maori people. It was decided to ask the Editor of Te Ao Hou to explain to the Maori people something of their legal rights involved in civil and court proceedings. Such an article would of course be welcomed.
It is to be hoped that conferences of this type will become a regular yearly feature.