The National Kohanga Reo Trust Board says the Government is crushing the movement by imposing early childhood regulations.
The organisation staged a protest outside the Waitangi Tribunal's offices in Wellington on Monday, and filed an urgent claim to be protected under the Treaty of Waitangi.
The trust has lodged the claim in response to a Ministry of Education report, which wants the movement to comply with early childhood centre regulations.
But a trustee, Dame Iritana Tawhiwhirangi, says the mainstream model doesn't compare because the kohanga philosophy is based on Maori practices or kaupapa Maori.
Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples says he plans to continue talk with the trust.
Dr Sharples suspects the way forward would be for the kohanga movement to adopt legislation similar to kura kaupapa Maori, which distinguishes them as schools that follow kaupapa Maori.
The Waitangi Tribunal can't say whether the claim will be heard urgently.
Meanwhile, Dr Sharples says the success of Kohanga Reo can not be measured when they are being labelled as early childhood centres.
The National Kohanga Reo Trust Board fears for the future of the model following recommendations in a report by the Government's early childhood taskforce.
One report finding showed some kohanga were doing exceptionally well but questions were raised about the consistent quality of early childhood education provision at other centres.
Dr Sharples has rejected the report's finding saying that concern only applies to early childhood centre and not Kohanga Reo models.