A champion of new generations of te reo Māori speakers has been awarded one of the country’s highest Māori language accolades.
The University of Waikato’s Professor Pou Temara has received a Lifetime Achievement award from Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori/The Māori Language Commission to acknowledge his ceaseless efforts to promote Māori language at a national level.
Professor Pou Temara is a recognised tohunga and authority in Māori language, ancient karakia, kapa haka and whaikōrero. He is one of three directors of Te Panekiretanga o Te Reo/The Institute of Excellence in the Māori Language.
Born and bred in the heart of Te Urewera, he was raised by his grandparents near the rural town of Ruatāhuna. He did not speak English until he was of school age. Much later, as an adult, he realised his destiny remained with the Māori world, and he went on combine his knowledge of te reo and tikanga with academic excellence.
Professor Temara says te reo Māori was always a part of his life, then it became his life’s work. He believes the rejuvenation of the language will not happen through Māori alone: its survival depends on the assistance of all New Zealanders.
“Without te reo Māori, New Zealand loses its identity, its culture. I say, if you are proud to call New Zealand home then you support the revitalisation of our native tongue – te reo Māori, to ensure that that culture is not lost.”
University of Waikato Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Māori, Dr Sarah-Jane Tiakiwai says Professor Temara is the epitome of the excellence he demands of his students.
“This can be seen in the emergence of new generations of speakers and champions of te reo. His contributions across the oral, literary and performative genres of te reo are unsurpassed.”
Faculty of Māori and Indigenous Studies Dean Professor Brendan Hokowhitu says the knowledge of te reo, tikanga and Te Ao Māori make Professor Temara a tohunga and a national treasure.
“Part of what makes him so unique in a University context is that there are no books that can teach what he knows. There is also no one more willing to try different methods to get the best out of his students.”