Kōkā Keri Kaa is a teacher, award-winning author and expert in the tikanga of Ngāti Porou. In this video she shares some of her experiences growing up in a close knit (tata) Ngāti Porou whānau, the importance of language in raising children, and what this might mean for us today.
Kōkā Keri lived in a close family.
Not all families were the same – some were separated. Some left Ngāti Porou in search of livelihoods, work, money, and schooling. Some remain – even though there might have been no money and no work.
As Kōkā Keri grew up, in her house karakia and reo was strong, both in Pākehā and Māori. If her father addressed her and her siblings in Māori, they responded in Māori, and if addressed in Pākehā, they responded in Pākehā, [because he expected them to be excellent in both languages].
Kōkā Keri’s grandmother Matewa instructed her and her siblings. Matewa told them that when they exit the kēti (gate) of the house to go to school, they were to finish speaking Māori and speak Pākehā. When they entered the gate again, they were to speak Māori.
From that experience Kōkā Keri began to think about the mana of the reo – “tiakina e ngā kēti” (the protection of the gates). Open the kēti, shut the kēti - from there she thought about how to learn and protect the reo.
The attention to the reo speaks of the attention of the grandparents and parents to the children’s development and success.
Kōkā Keri’s father instructed her and her siblings at the table. After dinner, their work for the night would begin, homework. After that they would play, but their games were to do with the brain.
Through this discipline and attention Kōkā Keri believes that her family was strengthened.
Even though now many of her siblings have died, it was from their closeness and strength at the start that they drew their strength throughout their lives, and Kōkā Keri still draws her strength from that today, seventy years later.