Great-grandfather, Please Teach Me My Language
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Inspired by Joshua Fishman’s lifetime dedication to the revitalisation of minority languages, especially Yiddish, this paper presents my personal story of the loss of the Māori language in my family in New Zealand/Aotearoa and our attempts to reverse this decline over several generations. The paper includes a description of several policy reforms and events in Aotearoa/New Zealand’s history and the impact of colonisation on the Māori language, which, as seen in other colonised peoples around the world, has contributed to the decline of this indigenous language. The paper also presents the mobilisation of Māori families and communities, including my own family, to establish their own strategies and initiatives to arrest further language decline and to reverse language loss in Māori families in Aotearoa/New Zealand. This article, combining story and history, should be read as a historiography of the Māori language, based on the author’s acknowledgement that other indigenous minority communities, globally, and their languages also have experienced the effects of colonisation and language loss. This article, much like a helix model, weaves together a narrative and history of Māori language loss, pain, resilience, and hope and seeks to establish that no language, because it contains the DNA of our cultural identity, should be allowed to die. A table of key landmarks of the history of the Māori language also is included.