Whanganui not Wan­ganui

Central Leader - - News -

Many Pakeha live in fear Maori will treat them like they treated Maori.

That was an­other view my un­cle Syd Jack­son used when he spoke about race re­la­tions in this coun­try.

I was re­minded of it when out­raged Pakeha rang Ra­dio Live to de­clare their right to their cul­ture and iden­tity af­ter the Ge­o­graphic Board, de­lib­er­at­ing on the rec­om­men­da­tion that the H be put back into Wan­ganui, ac­knowl­edged the spell­ing had been wrong for 150 years.

Call me stupid – as my talk­back co-host of­ten does – but how can a cul­ture be threat­ened if the mis­spelling of a place name is cor­rected by the in­ser­tion of a sin­gle let­ter?

The only cul­ture and iden­tity un­der threat has been Maori cul­ture.

My par­ents and grand­par­ents had the lan­guage beaten out of them by teach­ers told to as­sim­i­late Maori kids.

Bar­ring Maori be­ing spo­ken in schools proved suc­cess­ful for suc­ces­sive gov­ern­ments – the lan­guage was just about de­stroyed.

It was not un­til the last gen­er­a­tion that Maori was given re­spect.

In 1984 ko­hanga reo started and it looked like Maori might have a chance of sav­ing the lan­guage. Maori lan­guage pro­grammes started on TVNZ, Maori ra­dio and Maori im­mer­sion and bilin­gual schools be­gan in the 80s and 90s, and Maori TV kicked off in 2004.

We even started a new Maori Party.

So de­spite the dis­grace­ful poli­cies of pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ments, Maori have bat­tled on with their ef­forts to save their lan­guage and cul­ture.

There’s no doubt that this Maori re­nais­sance has been of great con­cern to the racists who would have loved to have seen our lan­guage dis­ap­pear. That’s what the fuss about the H be­ing put back into Wan­ganui is about.

The racists there, and around the coun­try, want to stop Maori hav­ing their lan­guage cor­rectly spelt.

Why? They don’t re­ally know, but I sus­pect they think Maori are get­ting too big for their boots and that if they give way to the H, then Maori will prob­a­bly want the whole coun­try next.

No doubt their fear is some­thing akin to what un­cle Syd said – “that Maori might want ret­ri­bu­tion for the way they were treated by Pakeha”.

But putting the H back is noth­ing to fear and will only lead to bet­ter Maori and Pakeha re­la­tions, just as the ini­tia­tives of the 80s, 90s and 2000 have proven.

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