18 Jul 2011

Dame Katerina's death a blow to teaching of te reo

8:07 pm on 18 July 2011

The people of Ngāti Porou and the rest of Māoridom are in mourning, as tributes pour in from around the country for one of the most influential women in the renaissance of te reo Māori.

Dame Kahurangi Katerina Te Heikoko Mataira has died at the age of 78, and is lying at Ohinewaiapu Marae, near Ruatoria.

Haami Piripi, a former chief executive of the Maori Language Commission, says Dame Katerina was a true educationalist and many people who now korero Māori owe their skills to her methods.

He says she was responsible for the introduction of the Ataarangi method of language learning; she wrote books on the subject, and was a superb role model for her pupils and colleagues.

Mr Piripi says in his seven years with the commission, Dame Katerina's opinions were sought and valued by everyone including the commission and Cabinet Ministers .

He says she was essentially a tohunga of te reo Māori, and her death is a great loss.

Dame Katerina was made a Dame Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for her service to te reo in the recent Queen's Birthday honours.