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PhD candidate Jordon Lima on reclaiming te reo Māori

Wednesday 14 September 2022 1:42pm

limamainJordon Lima believes that learning te reo Māori enables her and her whānau to reclaim and restore their culture, tikanga and Māori way of thinking.

Ko Hikurangi te maunga.

Ko Waiapu te awa.

Ko Ngāti Porou te iwi.

Ko Jordon Lima tōku ingoa.

I whānau mai au ki Whangara. I tipu ake au ki Ōtautahi.

PhD candidate Jordon Lima believes that learning te reo Māori enables her and her whānau to reclaim and restore more than just their language, but also their culture, tikanga and Māori way of thinking.

Based in the School of Biomedical Sciences, Miss Lima spends her days researching at Te Aho Matatū (Centre for Translational Cancer Research) where she is looking to inform the clinical applications of a blood-based cancer test for Māori communities in Aotearoa.

“This test detects cancer-specific DNA in the blood allowing doctors to find cancer early, monitor a patient’s treatment, and predict the likelihood of it recurring,” Miss Lima says.

“The aim of the project is two-fold where, in the lab, I will be testing the scientific rigour of these tests and, in the community, I will be interviewing Māori healthcare providers and Māori whānau who have experienced cancer care.

“This will ensure that the project is driven by and serves the needs of Māori communities.”

Co-supervised by Professor Parry Guilford and Associate Professor Karyn Paringatai, Miss Lima has been encouraged to embrace both her passion for biomedical research and Māori health.

Originally from Te Tairāwhiti, Miss Lima shares that it seemed her whānau would only ever return home for tangi, as many of her family members were lost to diabetes, cancer and heart disease.

These experiences are what drew her to the University’s Health Sciences programme because she wanted to understand more about the genetic and environmental factors that were contributing to the diseases that were so prolific in her family.

“I wanted to do my part to improve the quality of life for our whānau. As Māori, we are told we will die younger, have poorer quality of life, and be let down by colonial systems,” Miss Lima says.

“But I believe Māori biomedical researchers can play a great role in changing this narrative by returning home to ask our communities what we can do for them.”

It is this same desire to ‘return home’ and restore what was lost that inspired her te reo Māori journey.

“My grandfather was the last in my family to kōrero Māori,” Miss Lima says.

“He was barred from speaking reo Māori with his children and passed away before we could ever kōrero together.

“My mum would listen to her father kōrero Māori but she was too scared to speak it herself and so restoring reo Māori for my whānau will mean my mum and my sisters are empowered to speak it, and so will my children and grandchildren.”

Miss Lima’s decision to start learning the language was officially sparked in 2019 when her niece was born and reo Māori was to be her first language.

“When she started speaking reo Māori I became truly driven to learn, albeit just to keep up with a one-year-old!” Miss Lima says.

“In that same year, Parry [Professor Guilford] bought me my first copy of ‘Māori Made Easy’ by Scotty Morrison.

“In 2021, I decided I needed a more immersive learning environment, so I enrolled in the full-year ‘Te Ara Reo Māori Level 1 and 2’ course at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa just before starting my PhD and now, in 2022, I am completing Te Kākano here at the University of Otago.”

Miss Lima also shared the proverb ‘Māu tēnā kīwai o te kete, māku tēnei’ which means ‘You take that handle of the basket, I’ll take this one.’

This whakataukī is advice she would give to anyone hesitant about learning, letting them know that this kete is not theirs alone to carry.

“At the start of your learning journey, when your kete is lighter, books, videos and podcasts could be a valuable way of introducing yourself to the language but, as your kete gets increasingly filled, seeking out a network of people to support your journey is key.”

"Kaupapa like Mahuru Māori and te Wiki o Te Reo Māori have been integral for preserving our reo Māori.

“However, for reo Māori to truly be preserved, it needs to be embraced and spoken like every week is Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori and like every month is a Mahuru Māori challenge.

“This can be achieved by ensuring that every space is a safe space to kōrero Māori and that the use of reo Māori is normalised in every part of our lives here in Aotearoa.

“For some, this may be enrolling in a formal reo Māori course but for others it may simply be having a kawhe me kōrero with a friend.

“The next step in my journey is to share more of te ao Māori with my friends and whānau, so that we might all progressively turn each week into Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori and so that I might take my own advice about not carrying the kete alone."

- Kōrero by the School of Biomedical Sciences Communications Adviser Kelsey Schutte.