Ko toku reo ko toku ia mana: My language, my identity - The Pacific language nest: How language, culture and traditions are supported and promoted for the Pacific communities of the Cook Islands, Niue and Tokelau in Aotearoa New Zealand
Within the early childhood sector of New Zealand, Pacific language nests have played a pivotal role in promoting Pacific education, language development and building Pacific communities. Pacific Island language nests have emerged as foundational contexts that have facilitated learning, family and community engagement as well as promoting cultural aspirations. This study focusses on the Pacific Nations of the Cook Islands, Niue and Tokelau Islands; all share the status of New Zealand Realm states, and have languages which are at extreme risk of language death. This research examines the extent to which families and communities engage with the language nests. It investigates challenges that impact on the support and promotion of language, culture and traditions for the Pacific language nest. This study explores practices and processes in the Pacific language nest, and how these practices are evolving and adapting within the contemporary early childhood education sector. Using a combination of Sociocultural and Indigenous theoretical framings, I apply an ethnographic approach to three case study settings. Applying the methods of observation, talanoa (informal group discussion), document, video and audio analysis, and reflective field notes applied in the study, and guidance of a Pacific advisory group I seek out the cultural, social and linguistic conceptualisations and practices that take place in the Cook Islands, Niuean and Tokelauan language nest settings. Findings from this study reveal that Pacific ECE language services are delivering programmes that embrace cultural practices in which children are immersed in culturally and linguistically rich learning environments. Language experiences are varied and designated mat time music and group sessions provide and are utilised for Indigenous language learning opportunities. The language nest provides a hub for the Pacific Island communities and the expertise of the wider family. Intergenerational participation is a significant feature. Grandparents and elders of the community, in particular, maintain a prominent role in the provision of authentic cultural and linguistic programmes for the Pacific nations of the Cook Islands, Niue and Tokelau islands. The language nest is providing a crucial role in stemming the decreasing use of vernacular language in these nations. This study provides a framing of valuable knowledge that adds to the body of knowledge and provides an in-depth understanding of the Pacific language nests of the Cook Islands, Niue and Tokelau communities in Aotearoa New Zealand.