Brenda Soutar & Miria Wipaki, Te Kohanga Reo o Mana Tamariki, Palmerston North
Brenda is Ngati Porou and Ngati Awa. She is Kaitiaki (Tumuaki/Senior Teacher) at Te Kohanga Reo o Mana Tamariki in Palmerston North where she is a pedagogical leader. Brenda is one of a small group of people who established Mana Tamariki in 1990. Her role in the kohanga is to ensure the daily connects to the Mana Tamariki big picture.
 
Brenda lives with her partner, Milton Rauhihi, in Foxton. Together they have three adult children and four grandchildren. They are most proud of the fact that all of their grandchildren are being raised by their parents with te reo Maori as their first language. Now their own children are adults, Brenda and Milton are turning their attention to assist Milton’s whanau by basing themselves in Foxton and actively participating in community initiatives that advance the hopes and aspirations of the iwi. This is also a way in which Brenda and Milton can utilise the skills they have gained over the years to assist their own and also keep the home fires burning for their children and grandchildren.
 
Miria is Tuwharetoa. She was born and bred in Taihape. She is Kaitiaki (Kaiako Kaiarahi/Head Teacher) at Te Kohanga Reo o Mana Tamariki in Palmerston North where she is a pedagogical leader.  Her role in the kohanga is to ensure the smooth daily running.
The survival of the Maori language and culture is something Miria focuses on 24/7. Her children were raised speakers of Maori and educated through kohanga reo and kura kaupapa Maori.
 
Miria lives with her partner and youngest son in Palmerston North. Her son attends Mana Tamariki (Y10). She also has a daughter (19) who has just completed a media studies course and hopes to gain employment in Maori media.  Miria is active in her own tribal affairs and spends a significant amount of time in Taihape where she participates in her marae and iwi activities … and where she loves to wear her gumboots (YES she has Red Bands!).
 
ELP facilitator Lynn Rupe was among the participants of Brenda and Mirira's workshop Te Oriori - traditional Maori documentation for children at the recent Celebrating Learnig Stories conference:
 
"I had the great pleasure of being able to listen to Brenda and Miria from Mana Tamariki.  This year I have been very interested in Te Reo Maori within ECE and beyond. I have started to research the effects of language on culture thinking about which comes first.  After listening to Brenda and Miria, I am starting to see that they are inseparable. As Brenda and Miria spoke I began to more deeply understand that there are ways of learning and knowing that are just not describable with English and can only be spoken of with Te Reo Maori and vice versa there are ways of using Te Reo Maori that can only happen when there is a deep understanding of nga tikanga Maori.
 
Brenda and Miria spoke of the traditional oriori and the traditions woven around the use of these very meaningful chants. One of these chants was all but lost until a recent discovery of the words and again it has been revived and brought back to life by those able to express the heart felt meaning behind it. John Banks many years ago said that we have lost the battle with Te Reo Maori and all we can do is hold onto the culture (or words very similar to that). Through passionate people like Brenda and Miria surely that battle will not be lost as they ignite in others the desire to do justice to a language that hopefully will never die. Ane leid is ne'er enough - my scottish whakatauki - one language is never enough. How true that is in New Zealand.  
 
My reflective question is this: is language without nga tikanga Maori understanding tokenism and therefore is nga tikanga without language also tokenism? Toku reo toku ohooho - My langauge, my awakening."

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