Today I want to talk about my experience visiting an immersion school. Last Friday I went up to a school in/near Wairoa with the director and research analyst of language and culture for the iwi. It was a great opportunity to talk to two people who are passionate about making sure their language, te reo Maori, thrives. They took me up to the school where the kids did a haka powhiri, or friendly welcome, to invite me onto their school. The director spoke for our little group, telling them where I come from and what I was doing in New Zealand then he and the research analyst sang a song for the class. I didn't get a chance to speak with the kids because it was recess time right after we arrived but they sang a couple of really nice waiata, or songs.
I visited a couple of classrooms and even got to give a small lesson of Ojibwe to a few 7-year-olds. They were a great class and it was amazing to hear all of the students, teachers and parents that were there speaking their native language!
After the school, we went to the home of someone who has taught hundreds of people te reo Maori, including the research analyst that was showing me around. Her and her husband were very welcoming and he and I chatted for a long time about the area they live and he told me a bit about their life together. Meanwhile, the other three were talking in Maori and I occasionally caught an English word or phrase but by the time my brain registered English, they had switched right back into Maori!
Our final stop was Te Mahia mai Tawhiti, which is where Ngāti Kahungunu's eponymous ancestors settled after their waka landed nearby. Forgive me if this is not right, I'm still working on sorting out how genealogy works! One thing that amazes me about the Maori is that many of them have a clear sense of their family tree-they can name each of their major ancestors stretching back for generations. It was an honor to visit such an important site and to hear the stories of the ancestors from that region. Maori genealogy just blows my mind!
That's it for now I suppose. I just feel very lucky to be here making connections and I am hoping that many of these bonds remain strong even after I head back to the States.