September 16, 2022
Punch on nose for reo petition
A founding member of the Wellington group behind 1972’s iconic petition to save the Maori language remembers being punched, pushed and sworn at while gathering signatures.
Dr Robert Pouwhare, of the Te Reo Māori Society, says nowadays eight in 10 New Zealanders see te reo as an integral part of our national identity.
It was definitely was not like that in early 1970s New Zealand.
“It was a different world back in the seventies. it was hostile. People were deeply racist and we got abused physically and we were punched in the nose actually when we were going around with the petition getting signatures,” Dr Pouwhare says,
He says this week’s 50th commemoration of the petition at parliament was deeply moving – and it was also to reflect on the many reo champions, pakeha included, who are no longer alive.