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Measures to preserve Indigenous language and culture in te reo Kuki Airani (Cook Islands Māori language)

Ali Glasgow


“Will the Māori language of the Cook Islands die?” (Tongia, in Crocombe & Crocombe, 2003, p. 105). Statistics show that the Cook Islands Māori language and its dialects are in decline and are considered endangered (Cook Island Statistics Offi ce, 2006). This is not an issue that the Cook Islands face alone. Many indigenous nations worldwide are dealing with increasing use of the English language. Innovative ways to protect their languages and cultures from encroaching globalization are being explored. It is timely to move from the language of critique to that of transformation and hope (Hau‘ofa, cited in Robie, 1992). To this end, this paper explores earlychildhood educational initiatives which have been implemented, and examines the constraints to development of authentic educational practices and initiatives implemented in the last decade by the Cook Islands, particularly in early- childhood education programmes aiming to regain culture and language. Further initiatives are considered to strengthen authentic and traditional practices. The term “maroro Māori” (fl ying fish) has been coined to describe the interspersing of English and Mäori in sentence structures (Crocombe & Crocombe, 2003). This phenomenon, known as code- mixing, is explored as an innovative practice in the process of language evolution.

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Print ISSN 1177-1801 Online ISSN 1174-1740