Dover Samuels gave evidence to the Waitangi Tribunal in 2015 about the beatings he endured as a small boy for speaking Maori at school but who had only ever spoken Maori at home.
But as with so much Maori and colonisation debate we need to look at both sides of the story.
The genesis of this “not being allowed to speak Maori” dates back to “The 1867 Native Schools Act.” From my reading, this act would be construed as prejudiced in today’s world. But life was vastly different 150 years ago.
The 1867 Native Schools Act established a system of secular village primary schools under the control of the Department of Native Affairs.
As part of the Government’s policy to assimilate Maori into Pakeha society, instruction was to be conducted entirely in English.
Under the Act, it was the responsibility of Maori communities to request a school for their children, form a school committee, supply land for the school and, until 1871, pay for half of the building costs and a quarter of the teacher’s salary.
Despite this, many communities were keen for their children to learn English as a second language and by 1879 there were 57 Native Schools.
By 1955, there were 166 Maori Schools, mostly located in the North Island.
Victoria University published this translated commentary on Native Schools-
“In the 1870s, shortly after the Native Schools system had been established, a number of prominent Maori sought, through Parliament, to place greater emphasis on the teaching of English in the schools.”
“A newly elected Maori Member of Parliament, Takamoana, sought legislation to ensure that Maori children were taught only in English. A number of petitions in a similar vein were also taken to Parliament by Maori.”
“One such petition, in 1877, by Wi Te Hakiro and 336 others called for an amendment to the 1867 Native Schools Act which would require the teachers of a Native School to be ignorant of the Maori language and not permit the Maori language to be spoken at the school.”
That’s interesting, isn’t it? So why did the Maori elders want to forbid the speaking of Maori in class?
Could it be because they were very forward-thinking? Could it be because they could see the long-term benefits for Maori of understanding and more importantly, speaking English?
Their petition also requested –
We (Wi Te Hakiro and 336 others) desire that “The Native Schools Act, 1867” should be amended to this effect:
—Let there be two classes of schools. First, for all children knowing only their own Maori tongue and also having a knowledge of all Maori customs. These should be taught to read in Maori, to write in Maori, and arithmetic.
That seems to be protection of the Maori language, doesn’t it?
Second, all children of two years old, when they are just able to speak, should be taught the English language, and all the knowledge which you the Europeans possess. If this plain and easy course be followed, our children will soon attain to the acquirements of the Europeans.
“…our children will soon attain to the acquirements of the Europeans.”
They concluded their petition with
“If the Parliament would consent to embody these suggestions in an amendment to “The Native Schools Act, 1867,” it would be certain that in twenty-one years’ time the Maori children would be on an equal footing as regards their education with the Europeans; but if the present system is to be continued, if our children were to be taught under it for a thousand years, they would only attain to what is called “Knowledge.”
It is also worth noting that at the same time the Native Schools Act 1867 came into force The Maori Representation Act was also passed.
This granted the right to vote to all Maori adult males without a property qualification.
Interestingly, this was at a time when European males still had to own property to be allowed to vote.
For the tales you hear about Maori being beaten for speaking Maori in school, what is not mentioned is that we were ALL strapped or caned when a rule was broken.
I well remember a teacher at high school only allowed to cane with his left hand due to his ability to place “6 of the best” in exactly the same spot with his right hand.
Another teacher was only allowed to cane with another teacher present.
Then there was the metalwork teacher that would make the boys bend over the sheet metal bench and any attempt to “ride up” with the cane become doubly painful!
This whole issue around Te Reo is getting ridiculous.
A few days ago, minister Peeni Henare said Maori needed to safeguard te reo. “If we give it to everyone and anyone, what will become of it?”
Saying further, “We have to consult with every iwi and Maori community across the country to see if they want to give their language to non-Maori,”
Back in June 2021, Minister for Maori Development and now Broadcasting Minister, Willie Jackson stated, “Maori TV’s ratings have fallen away because it lacks good programming – in English.”
“In the past it has all been about the language, te Reo, a huge focus on the language, but we need our own news in English and we need our own programmes in English….
“It’s not so much about the language, it’s about the stories.”
How‘s that for absolute irrationality from Maori caucus members!
John Porter is a citizen, deeply concerned about the loss of democracy and the insidious promotion of separatism by our current government. This article was first published HERE