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NZ Army soldiers keeping Niuean Language on their tongues

Two NZ Army soldiers are embracing their Niuean heritage through Niuean Language Week as they continue their Vagahau Niue, or language, journey.

Major Carey Talauta and Sergeant Jaxon Tagavaitau both grew up in New Zealand and call it home, but believe

21 October, 2022

“I identify as Māori and Niuean. My mother is Te Arawa, and my dad is from the village of Mutalau,” said Major Talauta, who grew up in Tokoroa.

“It is only recently that I have been exploring my cultural heritage.”

Major Talauta, a 35-year Army veteran and whose great-great grandfather left Niue to serve in World War I, said he been lucky to visit the country twice.

The proudest connection I have achieved is convincing my children to recognise and engage with their cultures.

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Major Carey Talauta with his family.

"The proudest connection I have achieved is convincing my children to recognise and engage with their cultures. I am also currently learning NZ Sign Language as another official language of our country."

“I have also spent some time educating myself in te reo. It is a long journey that takes time.”

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Major Carey Talauta with a member of his family.

Sergeant Tagavaitau says he feels the need to represent both his New Zealand and Niuean culture.

To further that, he recently purchased the Fakaako e Vagahau Niue App to also learn Vagahau Niue – the Niuean language.

According to the Vagahau Niue Trust, there are fewer than 50,000 Niue people scattered across the globe and less than 2000 remaining on Niue Nukututaha.

“The app is designed to enable you to learn Vagahau Niue at your own pace, and in your own time, from anywhere in the world,” he said.

It includes information on the Niue alphabet, everyday conversations, numbers, colours, villages, values, proverbs, and places of work. Also featured are pages including an interactive map showing villages and the singing of prayers and hymns.

Sergeant Tagavaitau joined the Army in 2005 after growing up in south Auckland. He said his career highlight had been deploying to Fiji following Cyclone Winston in 2016, where he was putting in 14-plus hour days.

“The deployment was close to two months, focusing on rebuilding shelters in schools. Having to employ my primary trade to help people in need gave me a great sense of purpose.

“If I could give any advice to Pacific Islanders or Maori, it will be to give it a crack. You don’t know the true outcome unless you stop listening to others and stop doubting your ability.”