Te Pāti Māori has handed over to Parliament its petition calling for the country to be named officially, ‘Aotearoa.’ This coincides with our recent postings on namings here in the Waipā District, and also the exploration of the re-naming of streets in Hamilton nearby.
Interestingly, the historicity of those namings is featuring as an important aspect in the exploration of their re-naming.
So let’s explore firstly the naming of New Zealand.
There is a misconception that Abel Tasman named this space ‘Nieuw Zeeland’.
However he recorded in his ship’s log the name ‘Staten Landt’; believing that he had reached a part of South America which had been named that by Jacob Le Maire. It appears that later a cartographer in Holland corrected this and recorded the name ‘Nieuw Zeeland’ after Zeeland a province in the Netherlands.
So if we are to be guided by and ‘true’ to the original European naming of this space should we perhaps be Staten Landt?
With the name ‘Aotearoa’ the story goes that the Polynesian explorer Kupe’s wife, Kuramārōtini, is said to have sighted a long (roa) whitish (tea) cloud (ao) formation which is only seen over land, and exclaimed, ‘He ao, he ao tea, he ao tea roa.” It would appear that this was popularised by Sir George Grey in his book, ‘Polynesian Mythology’, and has became accepted as the Māori name for this country.
Grey’s mistranslation of much of the material he was gifted by his Māori informants has become well-known, placing into doubt the historic accuracy of Kuramārōtini’s alleged exclamation.
So if we are to be guided by the historicity in both names of Aotearoa and New Zealand where does that take us?!?
Te Pāti Māori’s petition for a name change gathered 70,000 signatures, backing the change. How many of those I wonder would have looked into the historicity of these names?
National Party leader Christopher Luxton has called for a referendum assereting that it’s not a decision for the government to make but one for the people to decide.
Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson asserts that the issue needs to be worked through very carefully. As the name of our country reflects our very identity.
Interestingly, in her recent visit to the United States, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern constantly referred to ‘Aotearoa New Zealand’ in her public addresses.
I for one have also taken to referring to our country as Aotearoa New Zealand. It slips off my tongue now, as it does for many others. It reflects my understanding of my identity as a Kiwi, a New Zealander, with a dual heritage cognisant of my Māori ancestry and place in Polynesia, in the Pacific; along with my pride in my European ancestry.
I am particularly mindful of my father’s service in World War 2 with the Māori Battalion. He, his five brothers and two brothers-in-law all avowed of their loyalty to ‘New Zealand’ in their service overseas.
I can hear in my mind’s ear that he/they would most likely not be in favour of Aotearoa replacing New Zealand. But they would probably give the nod to ‘Aotearoa New Zealand’ reflective of the dual ancestry they, I, and many others share with a deep love for ‘God’s Own.’