Liz, or Irihāpeti, grew up in Taranaki during the 1970s and 1980s, when being a proud Māori wasn’t easy or fashionable. She has spent many years studying languages and holds a Master's degree, but she chose to study European and some Asian languages rather than that of her tūpuna.
She returned home to Ngāmotu in 2017, after many years away as an English as a second language kaiako. In a foundation studies course she taught at Western Institute of Technology Taranaki, her tauira had to demonstrate a basic understanding of pepeha and Te Whare Tapa Whā (Sir Mason Durie's model of Māori health).
"That was enough for me to question if I knew what I was teaching. I realised it was time to learn about my reo and tūpuna Māori."
A one-day wānanga ignited the spark of learning te reo Māori. She enrolled in He Pī Ka Pao (Level 2), at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa, with Matua Canaan.
"He had us laughing and enjoying ourselves from the outset."
The following year she completed He Pī Ka Rere (Level 4), with Whaea Cheryl, while working as an English kaiako at a Kura Kaupapa, filling in for a kaiako on study leave. This led to a part-time permanent teaching role at Te Kura Taitamawahine o Puke Ariki / NPGHS, which intended to become the first mainstream kura in Taranaki to make te reo Māori compulsory for Year 9 tauira (students).
To continue her commitment to te reo Māori and to honour the tongue of her Ngāti Maniapoto tūpuna, Liz enrolled in Te Rōnakitanga (Level 5). She's taking it further by signing up for Te Aupikitanga (Level 6) this year.
Liz speaks fondly of the kaimahi and her fellow tauira at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa. She agrees it has been a transformative experience right from the beginning.
“I love every minute of karakia, waiata, mihi, tikanga and reo that is shared.”
“No reira, e hoa ma, me manaaki, me tiaki i te arero o nga matua tūpuna e! Kia kaha ki te kōrero Maori!”