Although he grew up in a large family that didn’t speak Māori, te reo has shaped Josh Rakatairi’s pathway in life.
It has also brought Josh, born and raised in Marton, back to his Ngāti Kahungunu roots.
This year, his achievement as an up-and-coming Māori voice was celebrated with a Ngāti Kahungunu Ngā Tohu Reo Te Tira Hou o Te Reo Māori (Rangatahi) award.
He employs his te reo skills as a consultant, transcribing, translating, editing and researching for Ngāti Kahungunu Iwi Incorporated and was one of the instigators of Te Tira Hou, a grassroots movement which aims to bridge the intergenerational gap by advocating for a te reo education that lifts youth to a standard where they will have achieved.
While originally set on a career in television as a reo presenter, Josh found himself drawn to degree study and considered EIT the best place for that.
“I knew of Materoa Haenga [senior lecturer and kuia of Te Ūranga Waka and Te Whatukura] and that she was one of the best teachers of te reo. She was a big drawcard for the programme.”
At the time, the Ngāti Kahungunu link wasn’t a focus but since moving to Hawke’s Bay he has learnt about those connections.
“I started feeling I belonged somewhere. It’s become a motivating force.”
After completing his Bachelor of Arts (Māori), Josh progressed to a Bachelor of Arts Honours (Māori), graduating with distinction. Now he has his sights set on a PhD and a return to teaching, having taught degree-level classes at EIT.
Wherever te reo takes him, Josh will never leave Hawke’s Bay.
“I have made too many connections to leave it. I feel connected to the marae on the EIT campus. It’s a drawcard for many of us, a response to Materoa’s legacy. Many times I hear her voice in the background. It’s all about upholding that mana,” he says.