TC Te Wahapu

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Te Wahapü ~ The pioneer Mäori language Computer-Based Communications System

Ko te reo te mauri o te mana Mäori.


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Te Wahapü ~
Te Punawaru mo te Ao Hou, Kei FidoNet 1990-1997
Kei Te Tukutuku Ao Whänui inaianei.

Te Wahapü was the first nationally and internationally accessible computer-based communications system with a Mäori language on-line command system. It completed its successful trial run on March 25, 1990, when, using a borrowed modem, Te Tuhi Robust, then Principal of Motatau Bilingual School in the Bay of Islands logged in to the system which was running on Richard Benton's computer at his home in Seatoun, Wellington. The concept attracted the attention of IBM (NZ) Ltd, and a few months later the system was up and running on a "state of the art" IBM 386 computer from a dedicated phone line -- it was officially launched by the Hon. Merv Wellington, Minister of Education, at a Beehive function early the next year.

Dr Benton continued as "Sysop" of Te Wahapü, assisted by his son James, still a High School student during the first two years the system was on line, until it went off line at the end of 1997. It operated under the aegis of the New Zealand Council for Educational Research until Dr Benton's retirement in 1996, and remained on-line for another year or so, until the development of the Word Wide Web rendered the once cutting edge Fidonet systems obsolete. The story of Te Wahapü in its heyday is told in the articles in the "Te Wahapü CBCS" section below.

Apart from the fact that you could access everything through a Maori language command system (developed primarily by Richard Benton in cooperation with Te Taka Keegan, who at the time was designing computer science courses taught through the medium of Maori at Waikato University), Te Wahapü carried many quite sophisticated databases -- much more sophisticated, in fact, than anything a decade later available on Rakiora. There were Maori dictionaries, a comparative database of new vocabulary in all major Polynesian languages (launched in Tahiti by M. Gaston Floss in 1992), an on-line colour-coded version of Dr Bruce Biggs' massive Proto-Polynesian database with multiple display options, and databases with information on various educational topics. A kind of mini-Google. An account of one of these, dedicated to experiential learning, is given in one of the papers accessible in the next section, below. Strangely enough, it was much easier to program these kinds of resources for display in the DOS-based operating system we used then, than it is now for display over the web. On the other hand, these systems had a huge drawback -- only a few people could get access to them at any one time (in Te Wahapü's case, because we had only one phone line, just one at a time), something unimaginable now in the world of the web.

One of these databases is still accessible, however, through Rakiora, even if the display isn't as neat and colourful as it would have been on Te Wahapü. This is the inventory of new and technical vocabulary. Pioneer compilers of this were Richard Benton, Tawini Rangihau, Hiria Tumoana, the late Tawhiro Maxwell, and Maia Wilcox, aided by many people, including Tairongo Amoamo of the Dictionary of National Biography, and the late Sir Kingi Ihaka who, among other things, contributed terms for a database of wine-related vocabulary that we were compiling to enable labels on wine bottles to be written in Maori, complete with those fantastic evocations of grass and apricots. This database grew enormously, and later benefitted from several years of editing and additions by Peter Keegan who began contributing to it when he joined the staff of NZCER and took charge of the project when Dr Benton retired. During this time the Department of Internal Affairs hosted the database, and later on it was transferred to the NZCER website. Peter himself later left NZCER to work at the University of Auckland and complete his doctoral studies. NZCER decided that keeping a Maori language database was not part of their core business and handed it over to the Ministry of Education. It has been off-line to the general public since then, but is now under the jurisdiction of the Maori Language Commission. A version of this database, containing the 21,000 entries made up to about the year 2000, is linked in to Te Papakupu o te Taitokerau, to provide additional material for users of that resource.

And another feature of Te Wahapü is restored on this site -- the Pätaka of files on topics related to Maori language and development. The development files are on other pages of this web site, but on this page we will start putting resources that were originally available through Te Wahapü, along with other, more contemporary material relating to Mäori and Polynesian languages, their history, development and place in the modern world. Ä te wä -- it won't happen overnight, but we'll try to keep the canoe on course now that we've actually started paddling! And if you, gentle reader, e te hoa aroha, have some resources you'd like to contribute, we'll be very happy to receive them!


Te Wahapü CBCS - Its origin, purposes and development

These three papers, which may be read and/or downloaded by clicking on the highlighted titles, give insights into the way Te Wahapü functioned as a dirt road to and from what became the information highway.

“Combining Medium and Message: An Electronic Communications Network for Maori Language and Education”, by Richard Benton. Paper delivered at the Symposium on Maori Education, NZARE / AARE Joint Conference, Deakin University, Melbourne, 1992 [Text file from Australian Association for Research in Education Website]

ABSTRACT [Modified from the original]
An electronic communications network, Te Wahapu was developed by Te Wahanga Kaupapa Maori of NZCER [the New Zealand Council for Educational Research] to facilitate the exchange of information and provide access to resources relating to Maori language and Maori education. The system was officially launched in May 1991, and ran on hardware supplied by IBM (NZ) Ltd. Te Wahapu was set up as an electronic bulletin board, with public access and e-mail links to other systems through FidoNet. However, it differed significantly from most other computer bulletin boards in two ways: there were several databases which might be queried on-line (including a regularly updated register of new and technical vocabulary in Maori), and all commands, menu items, and system prompts and messages were in Maori (English was available only through bilingual help screens). This presentation outlines some of the features of the system, the uses to which it had been put, plans (at that time) for the future, and discusses the significance of information technology in the empowerment of indigenous peoples.

Spreading the Word: An On-Line Database of Resources for the Assessment, Recognition and Accrediting of Prior Learning”, by Richard Benton. Presentation by Richard Benton & James Swindells at the Symposium on the Accreditation of Prior Learning, NZARE / AARE Joint Conference, Deakin University, Melbourne, 1992 [Text file from Australian Association for Research in Education Website]

[Modified] ABSTRACT
In 1990 the Maori research section of NZCER made the recognition of prior learning a major focus of its research and information activities. In the following three years it directly explored the implications of this process in the areas of social service education and training and the education of teachers and others involved in pre-school Maori language centres, while assembling information on the approaches to assessment, recognition and accrediting of prior experiential learning internationally. With the help of funding from the NZ Qualifications Authority, a database of resources and information on the recognition of prior learning likely to be relevant to the New Zealand situation was developed. The database included an annotated bibliography of written materials (from theoretical articles to guidelines and handbooks used in various tertiary institutions in the U.S. and elsewhere), and information on projects and practices planned or implemented by New Zealand providers. The information was available on-line through the Te Wahapu electronic bulletin board, a facility set up in 1991 with sponsorship from IBM (NZ) Ltd to promote the exchange of information relevant to Maori language and education. This paper outlines the structure and content of the database, and discusses the advantages of this method of making information on RPL available to educators, administrators and potential beneficiaries of the process. (The written version of the presentation is by Richard Benton; the oral presentation at the Conference was made by James Swindells.)

Ko te reo te mauri o te mana Maori: The Language is the Life Essence of Maori Existence”, by Te Tuhi Robust. In Indigenous Languages Across the Community edited by Barbara Burnaby and Jon Reyhner (Proceedings of the 12th Annual Stabilizing Indigenous Languages Conference, Weaving Language and Culture Together, June 2-5, 2002, at the University of Victoria and Saanich Tribal School, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada). Flagstaff, Arizona: College of Education, Northern Arizona University. 2002. [PDF file from Conference web site]

This paper discusses the impact that recent educational reforms by the New Zealand government have had on Maori as individuals involved in decision-making processes with specific reference to a predominantly Maori rural community (Motatau). The aim of these Maori individuals was to provide a secure learning environment for their children based on te reo Maori/Maori language unique to and for their hapu/sub-tribe. The effects of information communication technology on this Maori community are also discussed within the context of “creating space” for Maori decision making to achieve their indigenous goals.

Further information about Te Wahapü and some of its features can be found in these published articles written by Richard Benton:

“Te Le`o o Mäui Terminological Database”, in TermNet News 36/37, 1992

“Combining medium with message: An electronic communications network for Maori language and education”, in Computers in New Zealand Schools , 8.1, 1994

“The Polynesian Languages Forum terminology database”, in Bonifacio Sibayan & Leonard Newell (eds) Papers from the First Asia International Lexicography Conference . Manila, Linguistic Society of the Philippines, 1994

“Polynesian languages on the information highway”, in Mark Warschauer (ed ) Virtual Connections . Honolulu: Second Language Teaching and Curriculum Center, University of Hawaii at Manoa, 1995

“Liberation and revitalization: Computer-based information systems and the Maori language renaissance”, in Kwok-Wing Lai (ed.) Words Have Wings: Teaching and Learning with Computer Networks . Dunedin: University of Otago Press, 1996.

“Making the Medium the Message: Using an Electronic Bulletin Board System for Promoting and Revitalizing Mäori”, in Mark Warschauer (ed.), Telecollaboration in Foreign Language Learning , pp. 187-204. Honolulu: National Foreign Language Resource Center, University of Hawaii at Mäno`a, 1996.



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