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How I learned my Pepeha



Kia ora this is Suitauloa Simon Young, and I just wanted to give you a behind-the-scenes of how I developed my pepeha


NB: Since publishing this video, I received some feedback and guidance from teachers of Te Reo Maori. I will be publishing an updated pepeha soon. However the process of developing the pepeha still yields some valuable lessons.


First of all, I just want to say, I am not an expert in any of these fields, and I’m always open to learn. So if you are expert in tikanga Māori, and I say anything that is not quite tika, please let me know. 


A pepeha is a way of introducing yourself and making connections in Te Reo Māori, the indigenous language of Aotearoa New Zealand. 


There is a standard format that Māori use, which includes naming the iwi or tribe that they whakapapa or descend from, along with their mountain, river and ocean. 


However, it’s a bit more complicated for tauiwi, or non-Māori. 


I’ve been helped a lot by this article in a website called e-tangata by Keri Opai, called Pepeha for non-Māori. The link is in the description below. 



The article helped me understand a lot of things such as the purpose of a pepeha - not so much for introducing yourself, but instead for making connections. It’s a way for Māori to connect with each other based on iwi or hapu connections, and especially for those who haven’t been raised in their extended family group to find connection and belonging. It’s beautiful.


And yet… what about those of us who are not Māori? 


Keri Opai kindly put together a template which builds a sense of connection without being presumptuous enough to claim a mountain, river or sea as my own. By the way, other Māori people have told me don’t worry, go ahead and speak of your mountain, your rivers and sea, but I would rather err on the side of respect than stand with my words where I am not meant to stand.


So my pepeha, based on the template that Keri Opai developed, goes like this:


Tena Koutou Katoa - greetings to you all 


Ko Ingarangi, Kotirana, Aerana, Tiamana toku whakapaparanga mai 


I descend from England, Scotland, Ireland and Germany. 


And here, I have added a line that is not in Keri Opai’s template, and that is my waka - the ships that brought my ancestors to this land. While those of us descended from the early settlers do not have a tribal identity connected with those ships in the same way that Māori do, I do feel it is important to acknowledge the vessels that have brought me here, and where they came from. 


And there are quite a few, because - as we’ll be discovering on this channel - I have a lot of information about how my ancestors came here. 


So the ships are:

The Oriental - which Wellington’s Oriental Bay is named after.

The Blenheim - named after a famous battle in Europe. 

Both of these ships arrived in Wellington in 1840. 

The Midlothian arrived in Christchurch in 1851, 

The Lalla Rookh - has a fascinating name and we’ll be exploring that in a future video. That arrived in 1860.

The SS Ionic arrived in 1912 - the same shipping line as the Titanic

And finally … 100 years ago this year, the S.S. Remuera. 


Coming back to Keri Opai’s template, I continue:


Ko Titirangi toku whenua tupu 

This means the place where I grew up. Titirangi is a suburb of Auckland, and the name means “fringe of heaven”. It’s an accurate description. 


For this next line, I have asked a friend to help me not only say where I live now, but to acknowledge mana whenua - that is, the iwi on whose land I now live. 


Kei Opanuku ahau e noho ana, nā reira me mihi a Te Kawerau a Maki ka tika. 


I live in Henderson, and I feel it is right to acknowledge Te Kawerau a Maki.


Now I add another new line to explain my connection to the wider Polynesian family - remember the pepeha is all about making connections.


I moe taku wahine purotu mai i Hamoa 


My wife comes from Samoa. 


Now the next part is a new development that I added since our general election. I’m grateful to Tūraukawa Bartlett, a Māori language teacher, for sharing this declaration which I have incorporated into my pepeha:


Kia mihia te whenua

te tangata whenua

me te reo ake o te whenua

Ko Suitauloa Simon Young tōku ingoa

He tangata Tiriti ahau

Toitū te Tiriti, mo ngā mokopuna


May the land, its people and its indigenous language be acknowledged. My name is Suitauloa Simon Young. I am tangata Tiriti. 

Long stand Te Tiriti o Waitangi, for our grandchildren’s benefit


And finally, I close the loop with the ending from Keri Opai’s template. I began with “greetings to you all” - tēnā koutou katoa - but now I close with “greetings to us all” - tēnā tātou katoa. 


So that is the behind-the-scenes of how I made my pepeha. I hope you find it helpful. 

As I’ve said, it is not only a way for me to introduce myself, but also to invite and make connections. So I encourage you to do so in the comments below. Kia ora. 

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