Otaki: A Living Embodiment of Self-Determination

Te Wānanga o Aotearoa is a trailblazing Māori center of higher learning in Otaki, New Zealand. Photo: Rucha Chitnis.

Te Wānanga o Aotearoa is a trailblazing Māori center of higher learning in Otaki, New Zealand. Photo: Rucha Chitnis.

We were blessed to have Otaki as the venue of IFIP Pacific Hui. This small town of nearly 6,000 is poised to become the first bilingual town in Aotearoa New Zealand. The three Māori tribes of Otaki, under the leadership of Whatarangi Winiata, led a 25-years effort called Generation 2000 to revitalize Māori language.  In 1970, no one under the age of 30 could speak Māori. Today, over 50% of the Māori population in Otaki can speak their native language. To the donors present in the space, the story of Otaki was a reminder of holding this long-term vision in mind, as well as the autonomy of Indigenous Peoples, when funding projects. 
Otaki, as the Hui venue, became a living embodiment of the power of self-determination of Indigenous Peoples and testament of the tenacious, bold vision of Māori to revitalize their language and culture. “Language revival was central to this community’s transformation. It is this intervention that reinvigorated the hearts and minds of Māori, awakening the desire to reclaim what was taken,” noted Mereana Selby, CEO of Te Wañanga o Raukawa.