Go to National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa Go to Te Ao Hou homepage
No. 24 (October 1958)
– 26 –

Picture icon

Talking to Mr Awaere is Mr Hironi Wikiriwhi who taught Maori at Auckland University during Dr Bigg's stay in America. For several years he was a teacher at the correspondence school in Wellington. He collaborated with Mr Awatere in the lecture on waiatas and showed himself an authority on classical Maori

THE TEACHING
OF MAORI

Approximately forty-five teachers of the Maori language assembled at the School of Forestry, Rotorua, on Sunday 18th May to commence a week of lectures and deliberation on the teaching of the Maori language.

Most of the scholars stayed in the single men's huts in the Forestry camp and here after evening sessions they visited each other. With the firewood bins full of pine cones supplied by the generous Forestry authorities, and the little stoves blazing, the day's discussions were gone over again, and remits planned. Scholarly trappings were not wanting in these huts; nearly all had libraries brought by the members, sometimes quite formidable rows of books on Maori subjects, usually a dictionary, often a tape recorder, not rarely a typewriter. Obviously people had come to work.

They worked morning, afternoon and evening; only once after lunch one could see a procession of cars leaving the camp for an outing. They all went to a lookout tower near Ngongotaha. Overlooking the lakes and mountains in a powerful autumn wind, members listened to Peter Awatere reciting history and songs attached to the features of the landscape; then they returned to the conference room.

What subjects were discussed? The Maori text describes them in some detail; here we shall only list them briefly:

One teacher in foreign language, Mr C. I. Lowe, of Christchurch, and one teacher of English, Mr C. B. Kelly, of Auckland, gave lectures on how to teach languages.

A full plan for a high school course in Maori was ably set out by Mr H. R. Waititi B.A., teacher of Maori at St. Stephen's College, Auckland. Queen Victoria College, Auckland and Auckland Girl's Grammar School.

Dr Bruce Biggs of the Department of Anthropology. Auckland University, gave two scholarly lectures on the structure of the Maori language. He advocated the distinct indication of the long and short vowels in the written Maori, and the marking of the long vowel sound by doubling the vowel.

A resolution from the course unanimously supported the need for clear indication but only a narrow majority favoured the double vowel.

Col. A. Awatere and Mr Hironi Wikiriwhi discussed the teaching of Maori waiatas. Col. Awatere efficiently demonstrated his technique by training the group to sing Puhiwahine's love song “Ka eke ki wairaka”. The group responded enthusiastically.

Mrs Hattaway, Editor of School Publications described the growth and policy of her Department's publishing activities and invited the course's recommendations for publications in Maori.

Mr Schwimmer, Editor of Te Ao Hou threw out a challenge to the Maori speaker to produce some original literature.

Mr D. Alexander, Headmaster of the Whakarewarewa Maori School, advocated the teaching of Maori studies in schools. He thought European children should be familiar with hakas, pois and Maori culture, and be able to pronounce Maori place names.

The last few hours of the course were taken up with a formidable volley of remits and recommendations from the floor, so many and so involved that a committee was specially set up to sort them out and condense them so they would look less unwieldy. The result was that eleven remits were sent as recommendations to th Education Department. Most of these were aimed at giving Maori children better opportunities to learn Maori culture and language in primary and secondary schools, and at improving the training given to those who are to teach these subjects. Particularly the training of Maori language teachers was thought to need improvement. In addition Course members pressed for a part-time liaison officer for Maori children in

– 27 –

Picture icon

Two important Course Personalities: the Very Rev. J. G. Laughton, Course president and Dr B. G. Biggs. Lecturer in Maori at Auckland University. Mr Laughton has made many important contributions to Maori language study; he saw the latest edition of the Maori Bible through its final stages. He is editor of the Maori magazine Te Waka Karaitiana, published by the Presbyterian Maori Mission in Whakatane. Dr Biggs, after his study in America, was able to give the Course valuable guidance in scientific method in the study of the Maori language.

Board and post-primary schools where the Maori roll is large.

The most important remit was probably the one asking the Education Department to set up a standing committee to advise on Maori language teaching.

The course was the first of its kind. It was noted for the presence of several prominent educational personalities, including the Minister of Education. It presented a challenge to young educated Maoris to become expert in the language and traditions of their people. Teachers were fortunate in having the services of the Very Rev. J. G. Laughton as Chairman. He ruled the meeting with sympathy and understanding and his lecture on the traditions and customs as the background to language was the most inspiring lecture of the whole course.

Picture icon

Tape recorders were used to study new action songs collected by the teachers at recent huis. There was much zealous practising and copying of texts and no doubt Maori children at many schools will benefit. When the photograph was taken the song on the blackboard was ‘Te Matauranga o te Pakeha’ by Tuini Ngawai—an appropriate text.

– 28 –

Picture icon

A young Maori actor—St. Peter's College, Northcote.