Be proud of your language and protect its future

“Be proud of your language and protect its future” is the theme of this year’s Cook Islands Language Week.

“This is a very pertinent theme for Cook Islanders because use of the language is declining and its future is under threat,” says Minister for Pacific Peoples Aupito William Sio.

Cook Islands Māori is currently classified by UNESCO as a vulnerable language. This means that while most children speak the language, usage is restricted largely to specific locations such as Church, or in the home.

“Cook Islands Māori is part of our Pacific language heritage and it’s vital that its future is protected. This is important for the whole of New Zealand. Language Week is about raising awareness and increasing usage.

“New Zealand has an important part to play in protecting the future of the language because there are more people of Cook Islands descent in New Zealand than the Cook Islands.

“Almost 62,000 people identified as Cook Islanders in the latest New Zealand census while the Cook Islands population was just over 17,000. The last census also indicates that language use has dropped from 17.8% to 13.1% amongst those identifying as Cook Islanders and that’s a trend I want to see reversed.

“This year’s theme Kia ngākau parau, kia rangarangatu to tatou reo Māori Kūki ‘Āirani is spot on. Be proud of our Reo Māori Kūki Āirani and protect its future.

“Language is inextricably linked to one’s identity and sense of belonging and that is why continued use is so important. We want people to be confident and proud of their language and cultural heritage and to protect its future. It’s part of knowing ourselves and ensuring this rich heritage can be passed on to the next generation and that the continuum of our languages and culture is kept alive.

The Ministry has worked with the Cook Islands Development Agency New Zealand (CIDANZ) and the Christchurch Cook Islands community to make this year’s Cook Islands Language Week possible.

“I am deeply appreciative of the hard work that CIDANZ and the community has done in organising the Cook Islands Language Week. We couldn’t have done it without them,” says Aupito William Sio.