The Hīkoia te Kōrero wound up Auckland's Queen Street, the usual lunchtime chatter of business people on their way to the nearest sushi joint replaced by waiata and the high-pitched chanting of hundreds of children: "Kōrero Māori, kōrero Māori, kōrero Māori." VICE was there on this grey Tāmaki Makaurau day to ask what, in a few words, the hīkoi meant to its participants.
Jeff Ruha, 28, Te Whānau-ā-Apanui, Ngāti Porou
"[The significance of this hīkoi] is to normalise and make our language strong within the community, and just be proud and happy to do it… My belief is it's all about the revitalisation of our language and our culture within our whenua of Aotearoa and revival of our culture within the language, and using the language as a driving point for our people. And not just for Māori, but for everyone in our country. You look into New Zealand from the outside, all they think of is Māori and haka and pounamu and everything like that, but when they get into our country it's a completely different story. We want to normalise it."
Sapphire-Grace Greaves, 35, Ngāti Kahu
"[I'm here] to acknowledge the reo of Te Ao Māori… It's beautiful to speak your own language."
Karl Martin, 51, Ngāti Hine
"I can't speak the language, it was never an option at school, so I'm English as far as that goes. But I recognise that my grandmother, when she was still at school, their language was strapped out of them. They were caned every time they spoke in their natural tongue. She was still alive when the Māori language was recognised as an official language in New Zealand. She was a strong supporter in her lifetime of supporting everything Māori. So to see it has come this far means a lot to me."
Christine Rahiri, 32, Ngāti Ranginui, Rangitāne
"I think today's kaupapa is really awesome, like we should embrace te reo Māori in every aspect of our lives. Especially to keep our culture going on to future generations. It's really good to see other cultures embracing our culture because we're the indigenous people of Aotearoa, but it's good to also share our culture with others… It's really good to see different cultures embracing today."
Fred Wilson, 24, Ngāti Pāoa, Ngaati Whanaunga, Te Rarawa, Ngāti Kuri
"Promoting the language is the main thing about today. And if we don't know our language then we can't know the rest of our culture, so it's good that everyone comes out to support kia kaha te reo Māori this week, Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori… One of the main things for me is to make it inclusive. You always hear about people saying, 'They don't understand the Māori world', but when Māori are being so negative towards outsiders nobody can actually get inside to understand it properly, so it's awesome to see everybody coming here together and celebrating the language."
Tamaiti O Ihoa Pugh, 15, Ngāti Wai, Ngāti Whātua
"We live in Australia but it's good to be back here. I love it when I come here. I'm having lots of fun. I see a lot of people here and it seems like they can kōrero Māori, and I wish I could say the same for me. But I'm happy that people come here, kōrero Māori… It's good to see lots of people take interest in it especially because back in Australia no one seems to care that much. I know the most out of anyone in my school, and I only know a tiny little bit. But here it seems so natural and it fills me with so much happiness that people speak it, they want to learn it, they love it, they're deep in their culture, deep in everything. They know their pepeha, they know their mihi, they know how to hold a conversation for more than five seconds. It's great. It fills me with hope for the world."