Luckily for Te Awanui Reeder — when his son, three-year-old Waiora Alo-Reeder decided to greet his family with a good morning haka dance — he was there to capture the moment. He calls his son a “Māori alarm clock.”
As Reeder explained to Indian Country Today, his three-year-old son Waiora decided to express his Māori heritage because he attends the Māori language school Te Kōhanga Reo O Ngā Mokopuna located in Kilbirnie, Wellington, New Zealand. At the school or kōhanga, all education and instruction is delivered in te reo Māori / the Māori language.
Reeder explained, “Kōhanga reo is a Māori early childhood education and care center where all education and instruction is delivered in te reo Māori, furthermore, the children are immersed in Māori language and Tikanga (culture) from birth” to five or six.
“Being Māori, a father and also a second language learner of te reo Māori in my adult years, it was hugely important to me and our family for our son to go to kōhanga to learn te reo Māori and be educated in our world view. The roll is very small, maybe 20 children max who are educated and cared for by an awesome team of kaiako (teachers) who are qualified and passionate. Furthermore, they always go beyond the call of duty as our teachers always do,” wrote Reeder.
Reeder said when he saw his son performing the haka he was filled with emotion and pride.
“It brings us so much joy! I’m even smiling now. Seeing our children express themselves through their culture is beautiful, fresh and ancient all at the same time. We’re so proud of them. I can feel the tears building just thinking about it.”
Watch three-year-old Waiora Alo-Reeder’s haka dance here:
Reeder also expressed that unlike mainstream education centers in New Zealand, there is an expectation for families to contribute time and effort to the kōhanga.
“Whether that be through mowing the lawns, support teachers through coming in for a few hours, to organizing and running fundraisers. Every month, we have "Hui ā-whānau” which are meetings where all parents attend and fill governance roles for Chairperson, Treasurer, Secretary, etc. This provides structure to inform, strategize, plan and decide on matters. Although this may seem burdensome, it works really well and allows families to get to know each other. We are very lucky to have a great cohort of families in our kōhanga, bringing together a wide array of skills and expertise.”
Reeder also says by learning the roots of indigenous culture is a way to find Indigenous identity. “The impacts of colonization are known too well by both of our peoples. Education through an indigenous world view, empowers our children to know who they are,” he said.
“We are the ancestors of tomorrow.”
For more info visit https://nzhistory.govt.nz/women-together/te-kohanga-reo