Te Tai – Treaty Settlement Stories

Story: Te Mana o te Reo Māori

Teacher support material: War and assimilation

Teacher support material

Chapter 4: 1860–1945 War and assimilation

The fourth chapter of Te Mana o te Reo Māori gives students an overview of the period in our history when war, the enactment of various laws, and government policies of assimilation contributed to the steady decline of Māori language under the weight of colonisation.

Teacher support material: War and assimilation

It highlights a number of key pieces of legislation that significantly impacted the status of te reo Māori in Aotearoa New Zealand. It also looks at the decline of Māori land ownership, and the impact of diseases on the Māori population, and subsequently, on te reo Māori.

Te Mana o te Reo Māori – Chapter 4

On this page, you’ll find materials to support your students as they learn about te reo Māori from the New Zealand Wars to World War II, including key focus questions, suggested activities, and language support..


Introducing this chapter

A new official language in the school

Take students through an exercise where they must imagine that the Government has passed a new law that says from today, the only language to be spoken in schools and playgrounds is French. Ask the students to consider:

  • How would they feel?
  • Would they be able to communicate with their teacher?
  • Would they be able to communicate with their friends?
  • How do they think this would impact their learning?
  • What challenges do they think this would create?
  • Do they think it would help them learn French?
  • What would they do? Would they accept the new rule or protest about it?

Facilitate a class discussion about the questions above. Encourage students to listen carefully to each other’s perspectives. Ask them to consider if they agree or disagree with other people’s opinions and to share their rationale as to why. At the conclusion of the discussion, share with the students that as early as 1847, the New Zealand government created legislation that prioritised teaching in English in an Education order. Ask them to consider how children at that time might have felt. What impact do they think this policy and legislation might have had on children? What impact do they think it would have had on te reo Māori?

Chapter 4 poster image

Maori battalion performing haka in the desert.

Members of the Māori Battalion's C Company perform a haka for the King of Greece at Helwan, Egypt, on 25 June 1941.
Alexander Turnbull Library, Reference: DA-01229-F

The Chapter 4 poster from the picture pack He Pūkei Whakaahua is a black and white image from 1942. It shows members of 28th Māori Battalion’s C Company performing a haka for the King of Greece in Egypt. This image also features in Chapter 4 of the digital story. The poster provides some key questions and information to introduce your students to this chapter. You can use this poster to facilitate discussions with your students about how te reo Māori was used as a form of communication by Māori soldiers fighting in World War II.

Additional resource components

There is further content available for students to explore this topic:

Key themes

This resource tells the history of the decline and revitalisation of te reo Māori with a focus on five themes from Te Takanga o te Wā.

Te Takanga o te Wā Māori History Guidelines Year 1–8 (Te Kete Ipurangi)

Here are some key questions that relate to each of these themes. These questions are intentionally broad so that students can explore them in multiple ways.

  • Whakapapa

    Tūpuna – Connections – Belonging – Identity – Culture – Community – Tikanga – Mana Whenua
  • Where do I fit in?
  • Did any of my ancestors fight in the New Zealand Wars?
  • Did any of my ancestors fight in World War I or II?
  • Tūrangawaewae

    Belonging – Identity – Culture – Community – Place – Continuity
  • Were there any native schools in the area of my tūrangawaewae?
  • Mana Motuhake

    Belonging – Identity – Mana – Controversy – Conflict – Consequences – Tino Rangatiratanga
  • Are there any laws that exist now to protext te re Māori?
  • What rights do I have to speak te reo Māori in New Zealand?
  • Kaitiakitanga

    Time – Context – Perspective – Knowledge – Tikanga – Guardianship
  • What actions have I seen people take to protect te reo Māori?
  • What actions can I take to protect te reo Māori?
  • Whanaungatanga

    Whānau – Hapū – Iwi – Whakapapa – Tūpuna – Connections – Community – Manaakitanga – Kotahitanga – Unity
  • Have any of my family or people I know in my community been punished for speaking their own language?
  • How did this make them feel?
  • What languages did my parents and grandparents speak when they were at school?
  • Can I speak the same languages as my parents and grandparents?

Each of these themes provides a way for learners to connect with the history of te reo Māori. Keep an eye out for these icons to see how activities and content in these resources link to each of these themes.

Activities and learning experiences

Here are some suggested activities for your students.

Activity 1: Te mana o te ture – The power of legislation

Themes: Mana MotuhakeKaitiakitanga

Have a look at the key events noted in Chapter Four of the digital story of Te Mana o te Reo Māori.

Chapter 4: 1860-1945 War and assimilation

It features a number of laws or acts created by Parliament. Choose three of these laws to research. Find out:

  • what the purpose of the act was
  • who made it law
  • what impact it had on te reo Māori
  • what impact it had on people.

You will find links to some helpful resources at the end of this document.

You can present your findings as:

  • a newspaper article
  • a written report
  • a Google Slides presentation
  • a poster that explains the main parts or purpose of the act.

Consider the following questions:

  • What would be the impact if that act was still in place today?
  • How do you think people would react or respond to that act? Consider a range of perspectives and voices when thinking about this question.

Activity 2: He ture hou mō te reo Māori – New laws for te reo Māori

Theme: Mana Motuhake

In a small group, create some new laws for Māori language. These could be laws for your class, your whānau, your marae, or for Aotearoa New Zealand.

Consider what you want your new laws to achieve, who will be affected by them, and how they will be affected. Imagine that your class / whānau / marae / Aotearoa must vote on the legislation. How will you shape your laws so that you can be sure they will get the votes needed (at least 50%) to become law?

Activity 3: He waiata reo Māori – Māori language songs

Theme: Whanaungatanga

Chapter 4 of the digital story on Te Mana o te Reo Māori features a section about waiata.

Waiata are an important form of expression and cultural identity. Waiata are also an important vehicle for keeping te reo Māori alive.

Research a waiata in te reo Māori. Find out:

  • the lyrics
  • who composed the waiata
  • the year it was created
  • if it is an original song in te reo Māori or a translation
  • what the song is about.

Create a presentation about your waiata sharing the reason you chose this song and its significance. You can:

  • perform the waiata for your class
  • do an oral presentation to your class
  • write a report about the waiata
  • create a visual poster about the waiata
  • create a digital story about the waiata.

It could be a modern song or one from last century – the choice is yours.

Alternatively, you may choose to either compose a waiata:

  • in te reo Māori, or
  • about te reo Māori.

Language support


place of belonging


Other resources

Downloads for this chapter