Queen’s passing heralds a new era
The language not just words; it’s culture, tradition, unity
It’s the little things. Since the news broke on Friday of the death of Queen Elizabeth II, things across the United Kingdom, and indeed the world, have been changing.
Some of those changes have been immediate, from the words of the British National Anthem (God Save The Queen is now, of course, God Save The King) to Aotearoa New Zealand’s top lawyers immediately changing from Queen’s Counsel (QC) to King’s Counsel (KC).
Other changes, such as to images on coins and banknotes, will be slower and may take years to come through.
Whether the changes are immediate or long term however, one thing is sure.
The monarchy is very much part of our daily life, with a lot of it reflected in little details.
From passports to oaths of allegiance sworn by elected councillors and MPs, from coins to military uniforms (the
Queen’s cypher appears on many military uniforms, including buttons in some cases), from stamps to the name of a public holiday, the Queen, through her image, name or cypher, has been intrinsically part of Aotearoa New Zealand life for a long time.
So too has te reo, whether you speak it or not.
Take that $20 note bearing the Queen’s image for example. To the left of the Queen’s image are the words: Reserve Bank of New Zealand. Te Putea Matua. Turn the note over, and you will see an image of a karearea on it, accordingly labelled.
To the left, the words New Zealand Aotearoa are printed. So what’s my point? This week is Te Wiki o te Reo Maori — Maori Language Week — and this year it has an extra significance.
Wednesday, September 14, marks the 50th anniversary of Te Petihana Reo Maori — The Maori Language Petition, which was presented to Parliament in 1972, containing more than 30,000 signatures.
It was a moment in our nation’s history that kickstarted the revival of te reo Maori.
Fifty years. That’s plenty of time for us to have made te reo as much a part of our daily life as a monarch living in an English palace has been. Yet somehow we still seem to have a long way to go.
To get there, to get to a place where te reo is intrinsically part of everyone’s daily life in Aotearoa, we need to do lots of little things.
It’s not about asking everyone to become completely bilingual, but it’s about making little changes — from place names to days of the week, let’s use more te reo.
Using te reo doesn’t take away from anything, it adds to it.
It enriches our culture, our tradition and our way of life.
Just look at Sunday’s official proclamation of Charles III as Aotearoa New Zealand’s new king.
When Parliament’s kaumatua, Kura Moeahu, read the official proclamation in te reo on Sunday, it marked more than just a change of monarch.
It was a ceremony different to any other proclamation in any other Commonwealth country, thanks to te reo.
It was uniquely, inarguably, and beautifully Aotearoa’s alone.
So just as 2022 now marks the start of a new era — the Carolean era in case you were wondering what life under King Charles III’s reign might be called — so too let it mark a time where te reo Maori reigns supreme.