The Cook Islands Language Week theme for 2021 highlights the vital role language plays in maintaining young people’s links to their Pacific home, said Minister for Pacific Peoples Aupito William Sio today.
“The Epetoma o te reo Māori Kūki ‘Āirani – Cook Islands Language Week – theme is ‘Ātuitui’ia au ki te Oneone o tōku ‘Ui Tupuna which translates to, ‘Connect me to the soil of my ancestors’,” the Minister said.
“This theme refers to the feeling of being ‘home’ that many Pacific people experience when we speak our precious languages away from the islands of our ancestors. It is even more important as it was chosen by young people of the Cook Islands community.
“I believe it is up to all New Zealanders to ensure that Cook Islands leaders of tomorrow are given the chance to connect to their unique cultural identity and heritage.
“Although it is great that many people speak te reo Māori Kūki ‘Āirani during the annual language week, we must proactively nurture the language so that our New Zealand-born Cook Islanders have a sense of their linguistic and cultural heritage all year round,” said Aupito William Sio.
The 2018 census revealed that of the 80,000 Cook Islanders living in New Zealand, 80% were born in New Zealand. The Minister said now more than ever it is important that Cook Islanders are embracing their language and heritage to keep the connection to their homelands alive.
“Pacific Language Weeks are about more than each Pacific community celebrating their language – they are an opportunity for the rest of the country to appreciate and learn more about their Pacific neighbours.”
“My hope for te ‘Epetoma o te reo Māori Kūki ‘Āirani is that broader New Zealand communities join with the Cook Islands community as they take up their young people’s call to action to strengthen their connection to their heritage. This can be done by using simple words and greetings in te reo Māori Kūki ‘Āirani such as Kia Orāna (Hello/Greetings), Meitaki (Thank you), ‘Aere rā (Goodbye),” said Aupito William Sio.