“Te reo Māori is heard and seen in public because of the tireless work of people like Dr Ranginui Walker.”
That is just one of the great legacies the esteemed Māori academic has left behind for Aotearoa New Zealand, said Ngahiwi Apanui, chief executive of Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori.
“Dr Walker was practicing and advocating Māori language revitalisation in the 1970s, before the concept was even called that. Before we had a Māori channel to watch, iwi radio stations to listen to and kura to send our children to.
“In a time when the Government didn’t think our language had mana, he and others reminded them that it did and that led to the creation of the Māori Language Act which in turn led to te reo Māori being made an official language in this country.”
With that status, Māori throughout the country were able to start their journey of revitalising the language through establishing kōhanga reo, kura, wānanga, Māori TV and iwi radio stations, said Mr Apanui.
“Even the commission can trace our whakapapa back to his work.”
Mr Apanui said while the voice of the extraordinary Māori rights advocate can no longer be heard, the challenges he laid down to the nation many years ago are just as relevant today.
“Many people think the debate around teaching te reo in schools is a new one but it actually goes back to 1972 when Ngā Tamatoa and Dr Walker were advocating for it to be taught in our education system.”
Mr Apanui said Dr Walker’s work across Māori rights was so profound that it would have benefits for generations to come.
“The commission’s vision is to hear the landscape of Aotearoa resonate with our indigenous language. And that was very much what Dr Walker wanted too.”
Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori send their thoughts and love to Dr Walker’s wife Deirdre and whānau and his people of Te Whakatōhea.