Our names are an important part of our identity. They are a personal and social anchor that binds us to our families, our culture, our history, and our place in the world.
For Māori, a name intrinsic to, and associated with, our wakapapa (lineage), reflecting frequently observed elements, such as the river (Awa), the birth of Te Ao Marama, the world of life and light. before entering. .
Names also matter in the law. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, adopted by Aotearoa New Zealand in 1993, states that every child has the right to a name. The law governs the naming as well as changing of names of persons.
But no such law exists for countries. Nations can and do change their own names (such as when they gain independence), or they are replaced by others (such as after a war). What worked for the previous generation as national values and identities evolved, may not work for the later ones.
This is the challenge presented in a petition organized by Te Pati Māori (Māori Party). As well as calling for Aotearoa to become the country’s official name, the party seeks to restore all original Māori place names by 2026.
can change name
Since these and other lands were colonies, so were their place of origin, the colonists sought to claim their rights and versions of history.
Power, politics of language and naming of places are all closely intertwined. As the old saying goes, “the name of the names is the father of all things”.
Many European explorers preferred to name them “discoverers” after something they were familiar with. New York was named after the British defeated the Dutch, who named their settlement New Amsterdam, part of the area they called New Netherlands.
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Before the arrival of the Dutch and the British, the wider area was called Manhattan, from the indigenous Munsi language of the Lenape people, who lives on in the name Manhattan.
Closer to home, the Dutch name New Holland was gradually dropped from the Latin “terra australis” (southern land) in favor of Australia by colonial authorities in the early 19th century, which was the name of the mythical great unknown southern land “terra”. is reference. Australian Secret”.
Nieuw Zeeland. a brief history of
Over the years there have been a number of petitions and attempts to change the name of New Zealand, including in 1895 a call to officially adopt “Maoriland”, already a common informal name for the country.
When Abel Tasman sighted these well-populated coasts in 1642, he called Staten Land in the belief that it was somehow connected to Isla de los Estados (Staten Island) in what is now modern-day Argentina.
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Later, however, a Dutch East India Company cartographer named it Nieuw Zeeland (or Nova Zeelandia in Latin).
“Zee” in Dutch translates as “sea”, and its English etymology is complex. It appears to be of Gothic origin, derived from Germany, and was adopted into the languages of northern Europe, for example, Sjölland (sea-land) used to describe a place closely associated with the sea.
Maori on the first map
Our country was not named directly after the link between land and sea, but after a Dutch place that already had this name – specifically, Zeeland in the south-west of the Netherlands. Forts in modern-day Taiwan and Guyana were also called zeelandia by early Dutch explorers.
When James Cook arrived in 1769, Nieuw Zeeland was anglicized to New Zealand, as can be seen in his famous 1770 map. Cook renamed Te Moana-o-Roukawa to Cook Strait, and named dozens more English places.
However, he attempted to retain the Māori names for both main islands: his map records “Eheinomauwe” (possibly He-mea-ho-ni-mau, or Maui Fish Up) for the North Island and “T Awai Poonamu” for does. (Te y Pounamu, or Greenstone Waters) to the South Island.
The first reference in law to “New Zealand” was in the Murder Abroad Act of 1817, passed by Parliament in England in response to the growing chaos in the South Pacific – including the mistreatment of indigenous sailors on European ships.
Paradoxically, perhaps, the act demonstrated a British view that New Zealand was not in fact part of British territory.
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Nu Tirene Appears
By 1835, many Iwi (tribes) engaged in international trade and politics were using the name “Nu Tireni” to describe New Zealand in their correspondence with Britain.
The New Tiren then appeared in the Declaration of Independence of the United Tribes of New Zealand in 1835, and again in Te Tiriti o Waitangi in 1840.
The Māori Legal Corpus, a digitized collection of thousands of pages of legal texts in Te Re Māori, spanning from 1829 to 2009, contains approximately 4,800 references to Nu Tirene, Niue Tirani and Niue Tirena.
The translation into Te Re Māori of the Māori Language Act 1987 refers to Niue Tireni, as does the Māori Language Act 2016.
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The exact origin of the composite word “Aotearoa” is not known. But if we translate “ao” as world, “tea” as bright or white, and “roa” as long, we have the general term “long bright world” or “long white cloud”. is translation.
Sir George Gray used aotearoa in his 1855 Polynesian Mythology and Ancient Traditional History of the New Zealand Race, and in his 1857 work on Māori Proverbs, Ko Nga Whakapapeha Me Nga Whakahureka a Nga Tipuna o Otiya-Roa.
Aotearoa is mentioned 2,748 times by the Māori Legal Corpus, one of the earliest written references to an invitation to other chiefs of Wairamu Tamehana in October 1862.
The popularity of Aotearoa can be gauged from William Pember Reeves’ 1898 History of New Zealand: The Long White Cloud by Ao T Roa.
Today, government departments commonly use the Aotearoa, and it appears on the national currency. One of the most common expressions of personal and national identity is the “Uruwenua Aotearoa New Zealand” passport.
Is it time for change?
Whether enough New Zealanders want formal change is not clear. A recent survey shows a majority willing to retain New Zealand, but a significant number are interested in the combined Aotearoa New Zealand.
Nor is there general consensus on Aotearoa being the best choice, with some debate about whether the name originally referred only to the North Island and Aotearoa me te Waipnamu being used to the south.
At the same time, there is a growing awareness of Te Re Māori (including Pakeha, as an official language) and our understanding of national names and their importance. It allows us to better understand where we have come from and where we want to go.
By accepting Māori names, we value our uniqueness as a nation. In time, perhaps, this will lead us to adopt a name that better reflects our history, our place in the world, and our shared future.