Te Kura o Te Kao, north of Kaitaia, has transitioned to a kura ā-iwi.

According to principal, Hemi Takawe, it’s their hope to preserve and grow their Te Aupōuri knowledge and what remains of their living dialect to the next generation.

“Ngā wawata mōhio marika ngā tamariki ki tō rātou ake kōrero katoa o te iwi.”

Takawe also says they've been on this journey for four years now.

The Māori language is their primary language.

“Mihi ana ki ngā kaumatua ki te kāinga nei nā te mea ka tae mai rātou ki te āwhina i a mātou ki te kura ki te tuku i te reo o te kāinga, te reo o Te Aupōuri.”

The classroom extends from learning at school to where their ancestors once lived.

Kaumātua Heta Conrad says those places also include the famous Ninety Mile Beach, Waka Tehaua or Bluff which is their food resource and their hill, Oromanga where the Te Aupōuri people have occupied for generations.

“E haere mai ana ahau, hoinō ngā mea, ako i a rātou i ngā mahi hī ika, te hao, tui kupenga, mahi whare wāmu, pēhea atu, he tō, he tō tō ngā riwai, wērā mea katoa i te kāri wēnā ngā mea e haere atu au ki te kura, he tautoko i a rātou.”

Before the school's transition as a kura ā-iwi, it followed mainstream systems.

The move came after their Māori immersion unit closed in 1999.

Since then the language has decreased here in the community as many speakers who grew up speaking te reo passed on.

For their elders, the Māori language is their first language.

But today, according to Conrad, things have changed drastically.

“Tēnei taima, aroha atu ana ahau ki wā tātou tamariki i konei, nō te mea, iti anō tō rātou reo, ko te reo Pākehā, engari e tēmata ana e rātou i te mau tō tātou nei reo nā te mea, kaha te tumuaki (ki) te ako, me ngā māhita o te kura, te ako.”

And that's what the school and the community are doing here, revitalising and passing on their tribal knowledge.

Indeed, standing proud as people from Te Kao out in the ao.

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