And the answer: compassion.
The Maori are the Polynesian people of New Zealand. Aroha means compassion, love, and empathy. The word can be built on, such as in the apology "Aroha mai," which translates to "please show me compassion."
The Maori language has roots in ancient history, but continues to be a celebrated cornerstone of traditional Maori culture. Also known as “Te Reo,” the language of the Maori people has evolved many different dialects across many different Maori societies in New Zealand. In some part, this is due to the fact that the Maori language is sustained purely through oral tradition, or storytelling. Instead of writing or recording the language, dialects were taught and passed down through stories or depicted through shared symbols like carvings, knots, weaving, and dance.
In the 20th century, the use and tradition of Te Reo experienced a sharp decline throughout New Zealand. Industrialization, World War II, and urbanization pushed people from the countryside into the cities and encouraged the use of English for business, rather than traditional native language. Thankfully, in the 1970s and 80s, efforts to reinvigorate Te Reo as a central facet of Maori culture were largely successful. Student groups throughout the country began legislating for changes that established a Maori Language Day while offering the language to students from a very young age. Meanwhile, lobbying efforts were ultimately successful when in 1987, Te Reo was finally recognized as an official language of New Zealand.
Did you know?
This week, September 12-16, is Maori language week! Today, Te Reo continues to come back stronger than ever. More than 15% of the population identifies as Maori, and about one-quarter of all Maori New Zealanders can hold a fluent conversation in Te Reo.
Learn more about Te Reo’s history and significance here.