WELLINGTON, New Zealand — A teenage thrash metal band screams out Maori lyrics in its latest videos. A popular radio host is learning New Zealand’s indigenous language and sharing new vocabulary with his audience.
And residents of Merivale Retirement Village in Christchurch are studying Maori, greeting one another in the language that had been unspoken by most of them.
“It’s one of the great regrets of my life, that I haven’t been able to speak Maori or understand it,” said one resident, Nancy Rogers, 93, who is Pakeha, the widely used Maori word for a New Zealander of European descent.
Maori is having a revival across New Zealand. Indigenous people are increasingly embracing their language, rejecting generations of stigma and shame associated with its use. And white New Zealanders are looking to Maori language and culture to help them make sense of their own cultural identity.
“This is the new New Zealand,” said Ella Henry, a Maori studies lecturer at Auckland University of Technology. “It’s not a blip in the cultural landscape. This is what New Zealand is becoming: a truly integrated place.”
As of 2013, just 3.7 percent of New Zealanders spoke the language fluently, and many predicted that it would soon die out. But analysts say Maori’s status is shifting, and a basic knowledge of the language has come to signify cultural cool in a country that continues to wrestle with its colonial and indigenous roots.
Now New Zealand’s government, which says it wants more than 20 percent of the country’s population to speak basic Maori by 2040, has pledged to provide Maori lessons in all New Zealand schools by 2025, despite a dearth of teachers who can speak the language.
Maori revitalization is also part of a broader renaissance for indigenous cultures globally, which in some countries includes support for indigenous news media and a revival of traditional religions. Ms. Henry said countries like Canada were watching New Zealand to see how its gains had been achieved.
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