13 September 2018 | Written by Scott Martin

Connecting With My Identity Through Te Reo – Tia Sweet

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We have had the honor and privilege of speaking with Tia Sweet, a young woman who has begun her journey of learning Te Reo, and in doing so, has found a deep connection to her country and heritage.

We sat down with Tia to get her take on the journey involved with learning this beautiful language, along with the grounding this journey has given.

Because as New Zealanders, we should be proud of where we come from, and embracing the Māori language that was very nearly lost.

Tia Sweet’s Whakapapa

I te taha o tōku māmā
Ko Tongariro te maunga
Ko Taupō te moana
Ko Waitahanui te marae
Ko Ngāti Hinerau me Ngāti Tutemohuta ngā hapū
Ko Te Arawa te waka
Ko Ngāti Tuwharetoa te iwi

I te taha o tōku pāpā
Ko Maungatautari te maunga
Ko Waikato te awa
Ko Pārāwera te marae
Ko Ngāti Ruru te hapū
Ko Tainui te waka
Ko Raukawa te iwi

What Brought You To Te Reo In The First Place?

“Te Reo Māori is actually the original language of this country before the English arrived in the 16th century. So for me, to strengthen my identity as a New Zealander I knew I had to learn Te Reo Māori.”

“Growing up, I just assumed English was the only language I needed to know. I knew how to speak it, I knew how to write it and I knew how to understand it. During my schooling years, I remember being given the options to learn languages like French and Spanish. But for me learning a new language felt too hard and I also didn’t think there was much point in learning another language outside of my cultural heritage. 

10 years later, wow! I couldn’t have been more wrong. Through high school, I assumed we were all New Zealanders and as a culture, English was our only language. However, after being in the “real world” I realised that this was not the case.”


What Makes The Māori Language So Connected To Māori Culture Itself?

“Traditionally, Te Reo Māori was only passed down through kōrero, waiata, karakia & haka. This was a way to really encompass the mauri (life essence) of what was being taught and learned – there was no written language.”

In Te ao Māori (the Māori world) language is sometimes viewed as the gateway to understanding what it means to be Māori and to walk in this world.

Every word or phrase in Te Reo Māori holds a story that connects it back to a person, a place or an event that occurred in the past – It’s actually quite beautiful how much meaning and value sits beneath the words we hear in Te Reo Māori.”


Why Do You Think it is so Important to Learn Te Reo as a New Zealander?

“I believe identity and cultural heritage is crucial knowing who you are and where you come from. How do we fully be a “New Zealander” if there are parts of our cultural heritage and language we don’t even know.

Te Reo Māori is the waka (vessel) that will guide people, like me, into a place of understanding the cultural differences and the beauty that comes with being a New Zealander.”

How Have You Found This Māori Language Week, Now That You Are Learning The Language?

“There is definitely a shift happening in New Zealand and Te Reo Māori is not only becoming accepted but moves to make it an integral part of business operations are now being seen.”

“It is awesome to see New Zealand businesses getting involved with Māori language week and creating awareness around this beautiful language.

I have seen big brands change their logos, such as Stuff to Puna and TradeMe to Tauhoko, Spark released an interactive app called Kupu allowing you to learn new words and at BNZ you can now do banking online in Te Reo Māori.”

“My hope is that one day all New Zealanders will be speaking both Māori and English fluently.”

Hapaitia te ara tika pumau ai te rangatiratanga mo ngā uri whakatipu

‘Foster the pathway of knowledge to strength, independence and growth for future generations’ 



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