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By Trev Pitt

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (The Cook Islands Herald, Dec. 24) – Cook Islands civil engineer David Bishop is turning his hand at a different trade, these days.

While engaged in development projects like the Rakahanga Hostel, he’s also trying to emulate efforts that have successfully produced the Pukapuka Dictionary.

Bishop has helped kick-start a similar project for the Manihiki and Rakahanga people by engaging a number of key people to contribute to the project.

Teacher Tangi Faireka is one of those volunteers and she’s now in the Northern Group, helping to distribute and collate the work within the communities.

The system is a relatively simple one, and is historically proven, says Bishop. To begin with, he has taken the New Zealand Maori Dictionary as a base and broken it up into six, alphabetical sections. One person gets assigned to each section, he explains, and consults with the village community on translations of each individual word wherever applicable, from Maori to English.

Included in the package, which Faireka carried North, are a number of resource materials, including Sir Peter Buck’s 1932 book "Ethnology of Manihiki and Rakahanga" and the Cook Islands Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan.

"The end result will be a dictionary for Manihiki and Rakahanga."

The beauty of it is that a lot of people are keen to help. There are no egos, no tall poppy syndrome in sight.

Bishop says a committee will be tasked with summarizing and overseeing publication. Mary Salisbury, who was an integral part of the Pukapuka project, has also expressed interest in being involved, he says.

The roots of Bishop’s efforts reach right into his own familial and cultural ties to Rakahanga, as well as his linkages with New Zealand.

"Manihiki and Rakahanga were the genesis of the migration to New Zealand," says Bishop, an active promoter and participant in the modern revival of the vaka voyaging tradition.

"It’s about discovering the linkages because we’re international as a people. Maori and us are the same. I support the philosophy of Te Wananga O Aotearoa. It’s about empowering people."

By broadening the efforts to document the meaning of the language, Bishop is hoping the process of empowerment also translates into a stronger national identity.

December 28, 2004

The Cook Islands Herald:

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