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Cook Islands Language Week – Te ‘Epetoma o te reo Māori Kūki ‘Āirani

Cook Islands flag.

Kia orāna!  
The annual ‘Epetoma o te reo Māori Kūki ‘Āirani – Cook Islands Language Week is being held from Sunday 30 July - Saturday 5 August 2023. 

Tāmata’ia! (Give it a go!)

About Cook Islands Language Week 

Red hibiscus.

Cook Islands Language Week celebrates the identity, languages, and culture of students from the Cook Islands and helps all New Zealanders journey towards shared cultural understandings.

Learning a new language gives us insight into new ways of thinking, and to different beliefs and cultural practices. Everyone who learns the languages of the Cook Islands helps to preserve them.

The Cook Islands community are the second largest Pacific ethnic group in New Zealand making up 20% of the Pacific population (Census 2013). In the 2018 New Zealand census, 80 532 people identified as Cook Island Māori.

There are three distinct Polynesian languages spoken in the Cook Islands:

  1. Cook Islands Māori is an Eastern Polynesian language with a number of dialects. This language belongs to the same language family as New Zealand Māori and the languages of Hawai‘i and Tahiti.
  2. Pukapuka is a Western Polynesian language, belonging to the same language family as the languages of Sāmoa, Tuvalu, and Tokelau.
  3. Palmerston Island has its own unique and distinctive mixture of Cook Islands Māori and English.

This page includes resources to support the learning of Cook Islands Māori, using the dialect of Rarotonga which is the most widely used. You may be able to call on people in your community to learn other dialects or languages of the Cook Islands.

Information sourced from The Cook Islands Māori Language Guidelines.

Curriculum connections

NZC Curriculum icon.

Cook Islands Language Week supports the curriculum principles of cultural diversity and inclusion, and provides an opportunity for all students to explore the values of diversity and respect. Students who learn the languages of the Cook Islands can achieve learning outcomes described in the learning languages and social sciences learning areas, and make use of key competencies, especially using language, symbols, and texts and relating to others. 

Paper tivaevae.

How can you get involved?

Learn a phrase a day
Introduce a new phrase each day during Cook Islands Language Week. This video and webpage offer some common Cook Islands Māori phrases, suitable for classroom use. You can download resources from the Ministry for Pacific Peoples website to support the learning of Cook Islands Māori. 

Investigate art from the Cook Islands 
Explore artworks from the Cook Islands such as tivaevae, traditional dance, wood carving, weaving, music, and sculpture. This digital art collection and this journal article can be used to investigate Cook Islands artworks. Teaching resources can be found at Arts Online

Explore the symmetry of tivaevae
Incorporate the art of tivaevae into your maths learning and explore the symmetrical properties of the craft. This activity from the Figure It Out series could be used as a starter lesson and students could create their own tivaevae patterns by folding and cutting out coloured paper. 

Engage your community
Find out if there is anyone who speaks Cook Islands Māori in your school community and ask if they can share their expertise with your school during Cook Islands Language Week. With the help of your Cook Islands community, students could create a resource for teachers to use across the school. A grandparent or parent could come and read to children in the classroom or in the library at lunchtime. You could use books from the dual language series or ask your language expert to share traditional stories from the Cook Islands.

Classroom discussions
Use the following questions as discussion starters with your class – "Why is it important for all New Zealanders to celebrate and learn Cook Islands Māori?" "What benefits will this bring to New Zealanders of Cook Islands descent?"

Get involved in a community event
There are a range of events taking place across New Zealand to promote the importance of the Cook Islands languages and culture. These include church, school, and community events, library sessions, heritage art displays, launches, radio dialogue, and workplace gatherings. Please contact the Ministry for Pacific Peoples if you would like a copy of the national calendar of events.

Instructional series 

Check out these titles from the instructional series to support your learning during Cook Islands Language Week: 

Mariri the Flying Man, Junior Journal 60, Level 2, 2020
When Mariri, a great explorer, realises his homeland of ‘Avaiki has become overcrowded, he and his warriors set off to find a new home for their people. This traditional tale describes their discovery of one of the Cook Islands, now called Atiu.

Tīvaevae, School Journal Level 3, April 2013
In this well-illustrated article, we learn about the origins, meanings, and construction of tīvaevae, the beautiful hand-sewn bedspreads of the Cook Islands. 

A Quilt for Kiri, Ready to Read, PurpleLevel 2, 1998
This sensitive narrative tells of the death of Kiri’s grandmother far away in the Cook Islands. Grandma’s gift of a quilt to Kiri sparks special memories for Kiri and her dad. 

A Gift for Aunty Ngā, Ready to Read, Gold, Level 2, 1998  
In this sequel to A Quilt for Kiri, Kiri visits Rarotonga with her parents to meet Aunty Ngā and gives her a tīvaevae that she and her mother have made. 

Useful resources

Cook Islands Language Week resource – Te Papa
Learn Cook Islands Māori words, phrases, and pronunciation, and explore aspects of Cook Islands Māori culture.

Facebook page
If you are a Facebook user there is a Cook Islands Language Week group that you can join to keep up to date with news, resources, and events.

Christchurch City Libraries - Cook Islands Māori language week page
This page offers recordings of simple phrases in Cook Islands Māori and links to supporting resources.

Te Kaveinga o Te Reo Māori Kūki ‘Āirani: The Cook Islands Māori Language Guidelines
Te Kaveinga o Te Reo Māori Kūki ‘Āirani: The Cook Islands Māori Language Guidelines is designed to support the teaching and learning of Kūki ‘Airini as an additional language in New Zealand early childhood and school settings. It sets out the competencies that learners need in order to communicate effectively in te reo Māori Kūki ‘Āirani. Suggestions for the teaching and learning of Kūki ‘Airini in early childhood and school settings are included.

Pasifika dual language books – Cook Islands Māori
The Pasifika dual language resources are designed to support the early language and literacy learning of Pasifika new entrant students in English-medium classrooms. Teacher and parent support material accompanies these resources. Many of the dual language books are available as PDFs and all the books are available as MP3 audio files.

Learning Languages series – I-E-Ko-Ko! An Introduction to Cook Islands Māori
This multi-media resource supports the teaching and learning of Kūki ‘Airini as an additional language at years 7 to 10.

Cook Islands Māori storybooks
Six storybooks, each with teacher support materials, have been developed to support the Learning Languages series resource I–E–Ko–Ko!

Pasifika digital legends
These digital legends are based on traditional stories from the Pacific. They have been selected and retold, in English and Pasifika languages, by New Zealand students.

Inclusive Education Guides for Schools – Supporting Pasifika students
This guide focuses on inclusive teaching and learning strategies that can be used in the classroom to create a more effective learning environment for all Pasifika students.

Going back to the island
In this blog, Teanau Tuiono reflects on his Cook Islands heritage and his connections with his tīpuna. Teanau urges New Zealand educators to value the diversity, languages, customs, and individuality of their Pasifika students. He writes that teachers need to move beyond the correct pronunciation of students' names and inquire more deeply into best cultural, inclusive practice. 


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Rangikura School – Pasifika parent group leads learning
During Sāmoan Language Week the staff, students, parents, and wider community of Rangikura School came together to enjoy an array of activities and celebrations which were organised by the school’s Rangikura Matua Pasifika Parent group.

Updated on: 03 Aug 2020