Te Tai – Treaty Settlement Stories

Story: Te Mana o te Reo Māori

Mīria Simpson


An expert in two languages who was determined to uphold the highest standards in both.
Mīria Simpson.
Mīria Simpson with her trademark thick glasses. Ministry for Women

Mīria Simpson, of Ngāti Awa, died at the age of 80 in 2002. She imposed her formidable personality and passion for the accuracy of te reo Māori on important projects, including the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography and Ko Papatuanuku e Takoto Nei – the New Zealand Historical Atlas.

Her nickname, ‘Taniwha Number One’, reflected her unwillingness to accept language – te reo Māori or English – that was less than perfect. Former colleagues also remember her fondly as Aunty Mīria.

She was a long-serving member of Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori (the Māori Language Commission) and a senior consultant to the Alexander Turnbull Library, the repository of much of our recorded Māori language. She was widely known as an interpreter, translator, editor and writer, including of Nga Tohu o Te Tiriti: Making a Mark (1990).