Friday marks the 40th anniversary since the Maori Language Petition - signed by more than 30,000 people - was delivered to Parliament.
The signatures were collected in Wellington, and called for school students to be offered the opportunity to learn Maori.
Robert Pouwhare, of Tuhoe, was one of those who collected the signatures.
Mr Pouwhare says it was in response to research that found the Maori language was on the brink of becoming extinct.
He says there was a violent reaction to their display of support for the Maori language, with the people collecting signatures punched, bitten and kicked.
But Mr Pouwhare says the petition resulted in the Maori language organisations and broadcasters that exist today.
He says Maori must be vigilant in ensuring the language continues to thrive, and not depend on the Crown or any other organisation.