It’s Te Wiki o te reo Māori in the UN International Decade for Indigenous Languages! This is how we’re participating

Last week, our Design Director Zenaida headed along to the Puliima Indigenous Languages and Technology Conference in Larrakia Country, Darwin, Australia. Puliima is a biennial event that brings people together from to explore pioneering projects and ideas for community based Indigenous languages initiatives. The conference falls in the second year of the UN International Decade of Indigenous Languages (and Puliima hosted the Australian launch.) 

The week saw grassroots Indigenous language revitalisation initiatives that are happening across the world. Presenters included an Indigenous language learner from Canada who created a self directed, paid, language learning immersion programme because she didn’t see opportunities for furthering her own adult learning, a digital language activist collective who shared their online activist approaches to revitalisation and a team of technologists, language experts and kids who co-designed a virtual reality game to help children engage in learning their own language.  Zenaida co-facilitated a workshop that led participants through creating a brand rooted in cultural identity. The session involved participants defining key audiences for their language work, remembering and sharing their cultural stories, and then drawing upon these stories to create brands for their language revitalisation mahi. 

Seeing what community organisations are doing to strengthen their languages, often with lots of love and little budget, got us thinking about our role in language revitalisation as a (tauiwi) organisation, during this important decade. 

We recognise that here in Aotearoa we are the beneficiaries of decades of deep and difficult work carried out by Māori, iwi, Māori education schools, teachers, student associations, organisations and communities. People before us have done the mahi to get us to where we are today and, while we have a way to go, we also see a proud and vibrant movement building around us. 

As a collective of Pākehā, Indian, Mexican, American, Filipino people who live in this country, we see te reo Māori as the thread that connects us to this place; our home. We are not alone in feeling this way, polling shows that 8 in 10 New Zealanders see te reo as part of our national identity. We have a connection to this language and want to see it flourish.

Here are a few ways we are participating in the International Decade of Indigenous Languages. 

Like a lot of organisations, we are at the start of our language journey. We’re taking small steps, watching the experts and reflecting along the way. Here are a few things we’re doing to build our knowledge and capability as an organisation, to participate in the International Decade of Indigenous Languages. 

We’re taking opportunities to celebrate. 

Te Wiki o te reo Māori started yesterday! This is the first year we’ll be celebrating together as a team in person. We’re partnering with The Hollywood Avondale and Te Ataarangi Trust to screen the Lion King Reo Māori. This is an opportunity for our team to get together, learn some te reo Māori, and catch an old school Disney favourite. 

Plug: We’re inviting the public to join us. If you’re in Tāmaki Makaurau on the 17th Sept at 2pm, come along! Proceeds will go to Te Ataarangi Trust’s language revitalisation mahi.

Te Wiki o te reo Māori runs 11-17 September this year. If you want to take part, here are some ideas for what you can do

We’re taking steps to incorporate te reo into our vocabularies.

We used the #MyMihi challenge to learn and practice our mihi together as a team . Some of us uploaded our learnings to the website, this is Noel, our Digital Campaigner’s mihi

We’re working to introduce te reo to our website in headings, menus, and buttons to help us and our visitors learn te reo and normalise its use. If you’re doing this in your organisation, this te reo translation register can help find quality translators.

We’re building internal practices to support reflection and learning. 

We’re creating an internal For Purpose tikanga document which includes guides that help us show up as good te tiriti partners and create culturally safe and welcoming spaces. As a living document it also helps us reflect on our own practices. The document includes karakia, mihi, introduction to dialectal differences (mita) etc.

We’re schooling ourselves with training and quality resources. 

We can't talk about the use of te reo Māori without the context it sits within; how we got to where we are today and why language revitalisation is important. Everyone at For Purpose does te tiriti training which is provided by Groundwork . In our last training session we all took part together, zooming in from different parts of the country so we could reflect collectively. This created a safe space and a common reference point to talk about te tiriti and our personal relationships to this place. Building on this, our frontline staff who engage with communities will require further training in te reo Māori and the tikanga encompassing te ao Māori. 

We share our individual investigations and learnings on a dedicated slack channel. A couple of books our team recommend are Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples by Linda Tuhiwai Smith and Working as Allies: Supporters of Indigenous Justice Reflect by Jen Margret.

We're remembering moments in history. 

We will remember moments in history that marked key milestones and shifts in the state of te reo Māori and other indigenous languages across the world. We’ll use these dates to learn, discuss and reflect. As they come up through the year, we will raise them in our weekly meetings and share them on instagram. If you’re interested in remembering key moments for te reo, Stories of te Reo is a website that documents the history of the language, which we made with Te Taura Whiri i te reo Māori. 

We're intentionally contributing time to language and cultural revitalisation projects. 

Indigenous and racial justice along with climate change are key issues that affect us in Aotearoa and are the issues we at For Purpose are passionate about supporting. We do pro bono and low bono work for oranisations working in these spaces. Organisations we’ve contributed our time to are racial justice organisaitons Blackroots Alliance and Umedics as well as Indigenous organisation First Alaskans Institute, who are dedicated to developing the capacities of Alaska Native people and their communities.

We’re currently developing a more robust business structure so we can formally allocate a percentage of staff time to Indigenous and racial justice projects, such as language revitalisation. Watch this space.

Language planning tools. 

If your organisation is further along in your language journey, we’ve helped Te Taura Whiri develop some tools that support organisations to create benchmarks and language plans.

This Self Assessment tool is a 5-10 min survey that helps people understand how their organisation can start incorporating te reo Māori as well as building on the work they’re already doing.

This Language Planning tool steps people through building an organisational language plan by setting goals, creating actions and indicators.

These are a few things we’re doing to build our language knowledge and capability as an oranisation and contribute to the Decade of Indigenous Languages. They’re small steps we’ll add to as we progress. What is your organisation doing to support language learning and contribute to the UN Decade of Indigenous Languages? We’re keen to hear ideas and learn from others on similar journeys.

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