Earlier in the week Te Tumu hosted a visiting scholar from the University of Auckland, Dr Akevai Nicholas. Akevai is from the island of Ma‘uke (Cook Islands) and is a Senior lecturer in Māori studies at the University of Auckland. She has a linguistics and Māori Studies background and her research focuses on the description, documentation, and revitalisation of her ancestral language.
Staff and students of Te Tumu, and the wider University community, were fortunate to meet and engage in a rich and insightful kōrero with Akevai. Informal in nature, the discussion and questions from those present kept rolling in and Akevai’s knowledge and expertise in the area of linguistics associated with te reo Māori o konei me ngā Kūki ‘Āirani was notable. A sobering point of discussion was the worryingly low proportion of Cook Islands Māori speakers in Aotearoa and the home island, it is a language that is very much in critical need of revitalisation and initiatives to teach the youth their language, sometimes alongside their parents. There is no denying a connection between Māori of Aotearoa and Māori of Kūki ‘Airani, genealogically, culturally and linguistically, therefore, a call to support and work together to achieve their reo aspirations is needed.
Some of the other key messages and kaupapa discussed included intergenerational language transmission, the geography and demography of the speaking populations, the introduction and interaction with English speaking people and some key researchers and leaders in linguistics of Indigenous Polynesian languages from the 1960’s to now. It was not difficult to hear the impact Dr Akevai Nicholas is making with her research, a trail blazer, a strong advocate and a passionate Ma‘ukean, who is a crucial champion of and for the revitalisation of te reo Māori o ngā Kūki ‘Āirani and te reo Māori Aotearoa. Meitaki nui Dr Akevai Nicholas.