Nā Mero Rokx

I love the term ‘Te Awe Māpara’. I use it for a lot of things. I use it to describe the future – what’s beyond the horizon? He aha kei tua i te awe māpara? I use it to gather information about new people – ko wai kei muri i te awe māpara? Who is this new face I see, who are their whānau and where are they from?

Recently I’ve been using the term Te Awe Māpara to describe online avatars. Like all cultures across the world, our culture has not held back as our world has evolved and become more and more technologically advanced.  Māori people are natural innovators. For every Pākeha tool that arrived, we had our own version. You know how Kiwis are well-known for their ingenuity? No.8 wire? Yes, well, that concept originated from Māori – te waea tuawaru – but in our case, nothing a bit of harakeke couldn’t fix.

So when a game called Minecraft became the second most popular kids game in the world, Māori children were right there at the forefront, creating their avatars (awe māpara) and creating their worlds, interacting with other children from the other side of the world. Some mātua would even contest that Minecraft became a bit of hōhā in their whare!

Mahimaina Avatar. Source: https://www.facebook.com/Maaricraft

Hei Reo Whānau was also born into the world of technology. In fact, it was established because of technology. Imagine this – a reo Māori enthusiast and māmā creates a group on social media for parents of Maori speaking children to come together and share whakaaro and knowledge around te reo Māori. Sounds simple right? Wrong. The bigger the group grew, the more we realised just how many words there were in a child’s world that played no part in our traditional world. Beyond the usual kupu like Lego and squeaky duck, which in the end were translated by a collective of members (poraka hono, rakiraki koekoe) there was also a whole new set of kupu that became apparent, and that was everything and anything to do with the online world – including Minecraft!

“The bigger the group grew, the more we realised just how many words there were in a child’s world that played no part in our traditional world.”

As more and more people became passionate about using more reo in their home, the need for more support and resources also increased. Basically anything that was cool in te ao Pākehā needed its own Māori version as well.

Te reo Māori Minecraft world. Source: https://www.facebook.com/Maaricraft

Enter Whetu Paitai of Wellington. Another reo Māori enthusiast, a pāpā, a Minecraft extraordinaire (2nd to his son Te Ariki. 7yrs) and a member of both He Tamariki Kōrero Māori and Hei Reo Whānau. Whetu enjoyed watching his son create masterpieces on Minecraft, he also liked doing them himself and eventually their whole whānau were hooked on the game. The difference, however, for this whānau was that they were committed to speaking only te reo Māori in their whare. And so the conflict arose – a whānau equally passionate about two things – te reo Māori and Minecraft which was all in te reo Pākehā.

Whetu decided at first to create his own Minecraft all in te reo Māori so that his tamariki could continue speaking their language while doing what they loved. He created a Māori world with avatars that welcome you in te reo Māori, a world with wharenui and kōwhaiwhai. After a while however, he saw the need to connect to others, and so he opened his Māori Minecraft world to other whānau who wished to engage – and so Mahimaina was born.

It was an exciting innovation. A place where tangata kōrero Māori could come together behind their awe māpara and engage in all things Minecraft while continuing to speak Māori. But we were still limited. The original Minecraft is a billion dollar programme, it is huge, with levels and challenges that stretch beyond anyone’s imagination – and with that comes new, never heard before, vocabulary. New to English and totally new to Māori. There were 8000 words exactly required to be translated in order to complete a proper Māori version of Minecraft. 8000 words! Words so complex that only a master of Minecraft would know the true meaning of the word.

Wharenui in Minecraft World. Source: https://www.facebook.com/Maaricraft

Hei Reo Whānau teamed up with Mahimaina (Whetu Paitai) to try and sort through all these kupu hou. It was obvious that we needed professional help! We were fortunate to be one of the recipients of the 2016 CORE Māori Education Grants. Had we not received the grant, we would have probably attempted to translate the kupu ourselves and would most likely be at word 126 by now. Whetu, our tohunga Mahimaina, collaborated with Hēmi Kelly, a tohunga reo to complete the 8000 word list, and it was all thanks to the support from CORE Education.

Source: CORE Education

Hei Reo Whānau prides itself on being a collaborative environment, where networks are formed and where kupu hou are born. Since having translations done, Mahimaina have commissioned professional Minecraft builders to create an even bigger and more immersive world, and developers to create teaching tools and a whole new GAMEMODE in Minecraft based around Hapū and Iwi group play. An artist has also been commissioned to create a custom resource pack, which will be used as a base to add more unique Māori designs to. The intention is to have this all ready by August to be presented at the Education in Games Conference. He aha kei tua i te awe māpara mō Mahimaina? He mea whakahirahira rawa!!

I should’ve stated how awesome collaborators Māori are, but then again all great innovators know the importance of having a great support network.

Ehara taku toa i te toa takitahi, engari he toa takitini. Kāore e oti ngā mihi ki te rōpū tautoko i tēnei rauemi mīharo, ki a Whetu Paitai, ki ngā whānau e maha o Hei Reo Whānau, ki a Hēmi Kelly, otirā ki a CORE Education i tautoko ā-pūtea mai i te kaupapa.

Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou tēnā rā tātou katoa.


Raising a Māori speaking child in an English speaking household

Tēnā koutou katoa!


Ko Natalia Wirangitakina tōku ingoa. He uri tēnei nō Muriwhenua i te Taitokerau, nō Ngāti Porou hoki. Ko Te Ahutikirangi Kereama Te Mutunga tāku tama. He tamaiti ia nō ngā hau e whā! I te taha o tōna pāpā ko Ngāti Raukawa, Ngāti Toa, Te Ati Awa, Ngā Rauru, Tūhoe, Hauiti, me Ngāti Kahungunu ngā iwi.

Nei rā te mihi ki a koutou e whai ana i tō tātou reo rangatira!


My current living situation was not exactly what I hoped for when I first found out that I was having a baby. At that time, I was determined my son would be brought up in a te reo-speaking household. I knew that this would be a challenge for me on my own reo journey and I would really have to put in the effort. Having focused on Māori studies at university I was well aware of the current state of te reo Māori and the importance of language revitilisation within 21st century Aotearoa.

At the moment, my son, Te Ahutikirangi and I are the only Māori speakers in our household and to be honest, it isn’t actually as hard as I initially thought it would be. There were times throughout the year I had to remind myself of our goal and had to pull my socks up if I felt I had been ‘slacking’.

…it isn’t actually as hard as I initially thought it would be…


One major obstacle I had to overcome for myself was feeling that I didn’t want to make anyone feel excluded or uncomfortable by speaking another language and practicing my cultural protocols in front of them. So I took a softly softly approach….and so far it has worked really well!

…I didn’t want to make anyone feel excluded or uncomfortable…

Firstly, I sat down with everyone and explained my aspirations for Te Ahutikirangi. I wanted him to be raised in an environment with te reo me ōna tikanga. I suggested that we start doing karakia together as a whānau before each meal to support what Te Ahutikirangi had been doing at kohanga.

When I talk to Te Ahutikirangi in te reo and some one else is in the room, I normally translate what I say in to English afterwards. I do this for several reasons, firstly to create a feeling of inclusion and secondly so that they too can learn some te reo by having it spoken around them also.

Everybody in the house was really responsive. After a while I started to notice some significant changes amongst the other members of the household. I could hear them using more Māori words when speaking to Te Ahutikirangi – “Your kai is ready” “Where is your mamae?” “Do you need to go to the wharepaku?”.

It seemed everyone was benefitting from having more reo within the household. I was gob smacked the night my younger brother said he wanted to do karakia and then recited it from beginning to end…..he had learned through osmosis!

When Te Ahutikirangi would bring is reo books to koro or uncle, they were giving it a go instead of telling him to pick an English book. It showed me that they were becoming more confident and comfortable with having te reo as a part of our home life.

Now, I am no reo expert myself and have found my reo journey to be a very long and challenging one, but consciously making the effort to speak te reo to Te Ahutikirangi every day has improved my reo tremendously (without the embarrassment if I get it wrong!). Here are some of the ways I have implemented te reo within our English speaking household:


  1. Creating reo only areas

For us, the car is one of our reo only areas. When driving to and from kōhanga we only listen to Māori music. It can be tiring at times, listening to the same waiata day in day out and some days I cant wait to drop him off so I can listen to something else. But to achieve our goal it is a small sacrifice, and it is so cute seeing how much Te Ahu enjoys singing along to his waiata Māori! We also make up our own little waiata and sing them to each other as well.


  1. Implementing small routines which encourage te reo me ōna tikanga

I have found that doing a karakia for every meal has been so beneficial to our whānau. It not only increases the level of te reo within the home with minimal effort required, it also has exposed the household to basic tikanga Māori. Now Te Ahu is so used to karakia, he reminds us if we forget!


  1. Books, books, books, and more books!

Reading is an awesome way to learn te reo alongside your child. Each night, Te Ahu and I read three books. Two Māori, one English. At first when we read a new book I find that my pronunciation might be a bit off, I just can’t get the rere, or I actually don’t understand some of the words! However, after reading it a few more times I find that we breeze through together and I would have learnt words I never knew! I never felt a need to learn all of the Māori insect names, but after reading his favourite story 100 times I can happily tell you them all.


  1. Toys

Find out the Māori kupu for your children’s favourite toys. This way you can play in te reo Māori! I have found that this is an awesome way to learn kupu about a specific topic, for example animals etc. Even the most basic reo can be used in play – “Hōmai te taraka koa” for example. This also helps the child to associate positive memories towards the language!


  1. Praising

Learn to praise your child in te reo māori. I started out with very basic knowledge on how to do this. After getting tired of saying “Ka pai tō…..” all the time I looked for new ways to praise Te Ahu in te reo. I tried “Autaia tō….” “Rawe” and a simple “ngā mihi nui mō tō……. Te Ahu”. This again, helps to create positive associations with te reo. Now whenever Te Ahu is trying to help me with something he will say “Ngā mihi Te Ahu!”.


It is the most rewarding thing as a parent to see your hard work and effort shining through your child. Despite living in an English speaking household Te Ahutikirangi will mainly always speak te reo and never once have I seen him confused when there is English spoken around him or to him. My son never ceases to amaze me with his reo and I truly believe that he is an example that it is possible to have these two languages coinciding together.

Through this journey, I have realised that many of the ‘barriers’ are actually those that we create ourselves and despite the circumstances, with persistence, the goal can be achieved. A carving is not done over night, however every time the chisel hits the wood it is one bit closer to being a beautiful whakairo.

Nō reira, karawhuia!!


…every time the chisel hits the wood it is one bit closer
to being a beautiful whakairo…


‘He manako te kōura i kore ai – A crayfish won’t jump in your net, just because you wish it in there’.

‘He manako te kōura i kore ai – A crayfish won’t jump in your net, just because you wish it in there’. (He whakataukī) Just the same as wishing for reo in your whānau won’t make it happen, you have to put in the work. … Continue reading ‘He manako te kōura i kore ai – A crayfish won’t jump in your net, just because you wish it in there’.