2009: Dame Katerina Te Heikōkō Mataira

Pikihuia Awards 2009 Honour Life Work of Katerina Te Heikōkō Mataira

Dame Katerina

With eight children, twenty-nine grandchildren and four great-grandchildren, Dame Katerina Te Heikōkō Mataira has still managed to find time throughout her busy life to translate and write award-winning stories in te reo Māori. Her significant contribution to Māori literature was honoured at the 2009 Pikihuia Awards for Māori Writers at Te Papa in Wellington.

The Ngāti Porou member is the sole recipient of the New Zealand Post Special Award, to be given along with five other awards for the best entries in this year’s Pikihuia competition on Saturday night. Former winners of the award, presented by the Māori Literature Trust, include Patricia Grace, Witi Ihimaera, and Oho and Wiremu Kaa.

Dame Katerina is responsible for translating over twenty-five books and is the two-time recipient of LIANZA’s Te Kura Pounamu Māori Book Award, one in 1996 for Marama Tangiweto and again in 1997 for He Tino Kuia Taku Kuia. In July of this year, Dame Katerina was awarded the World Linguapax Award at Parliament. It was the first time a New Zealander had been honoured with this award.

Managing Director of Huia Publishers Robyn Bargh says it is an honour to be able to recognise those pivotal in the revival of te reo Māori like Dame Katerina.

‘Katerina has contributed so much to Māori literature and Māori education,’ says Ms Bargh. ‘We are in no doubt as to her deservedness in receiving this award.’

The Raglan resident was a finalist in the 1997 Pikihuia Awards for her children’s story Ngā Mokonui a Rangi. She credits her talent to her father who, she says, was ‘a brilliant storyteller’ and inspired her when she was younger.

Dame Katerina has been at the forefront of the revival of te reo Māori. She established the first Māori language class in a state school at Northland College in 1956 and helped set up the first Māori language immersion school at Hoani Waititi Marae in 1985. She is described affectionately as the Mother of Kura Kaupapa Māori for her hand in Te Aho Matua, the charter for kaupapa Māori schools.

Dame Katerina received the Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 1998 and Te Waka Toi Exemplary Award in 2001 for lifetime contribution to te reo Māori.

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