Born of activism

For most of the 20th century the New Zealand government discouraged, banned and made it socially unacceptable to openly speak te reo Māori. 49 years ago, Māori language champions calling for te reo to be taught in schools presented the Māori Language Petition to parliament. The petition carried the signatures of more than 30,000 New Zealanders.

That day – 14 September 1972 – became Māori Language Day which eventually expanded to what we know as Māori Language Week. Their peaceful protest also led to the successful WAI11 Māori Language claim to the Waitangi Tribunal and the enactment of the Māori Language Act 1987. The Act recognised te reo as an official language of our country and also created our whare.

We exist to revitalise te reo Māori

Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori

Our founding board members were Sir Tīmoti Karetū, Sir Kīngi Matutaera Ihaka, Dame Kāterina Te Heikōkō Mataira, Anita Moke and Dr. Ray Harlow.

Our name was given by Sir Kīngi. At the board’s first meeting our official name was ‘Te Komihana mō te Reo Māori’, a translation of Māori Language Commission. The board’s first action was to replace this with our Māori name: ‘Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori: the rope that binds the language’. Sir Kingi said this was because the rope that binds us all together is our language. A rope that is woven by each tribe and each person to be strong forever. At the same meeting the logo, a partially woven rope, was created by Dame Kāterina. By the end of the first board meeting the new name and logo was agreed to, a karakia shared and the decision ratified.

Learn more about our logo

Celebrating and promoting te reo Māori

We are focused upon promoting te reo as a living language and an ordinary means of communication. This includes leading the government’s Māori language strategy and creating conditions for te reo to thrive. We recognise excellence in te reo by certifying licenses for expert translators and interpreters.

Our protest marches have turned into language parades: by 2019 more than 30,000 people marched with us in seven parades held across Aotearoa. After COVID-19 reached our shores we created a new way for New Zealanders to come together.

On Monday 14 September 2020 at 12pm, the same date and time the Māori Language Petition was delivered to parliament in 1972, we asked one million people to celebrate te reo Māori in their own way, wherever they were.  More than 1 million people took part  and this helped set us on our journey towards our nationwide goal of 1 million speakers by 2040. Our language experts tell us this is what we need to safeguard our language for future generations.

Whether gathering in person or gathering online, our work is about uniting people from all walks of life: te reo Māori is the thread that weaves us together.

Learn more about Māori Language Week

Ko wai mātou

Our people

Our board, leadership and teams


Ā mātou mahi

Our mahi

What we do and how we do it