John Tamihere: What’s in a name for today’s proud citizen’s of Aotearoa

In 2021 Aotearoa, Māori and other Kiwis have a right to determine the way in which they see themselves.

What’s in a name — Aotearoa?

This term “what’s in a name” is attributed to William Shakespeare, and in Māori terms, names and words are meaningful and have impact.

There is a Māori whakatauki or saying: He tao huata e taea te karo he tao ki e kore e taea — “the barb of the spear can be parried. The barb of the tongue can never be defended against.”

There are sayings from the English language such as “what’s in a name”, “a rose by another name”, and “sticks and stones will break my bones but names will never hurt me”.
Well, name-calling does hurt.

The origin of the name New Zealand is sourced from the province Zeeland in the Netherlands and is the westernmost and least populous province. Hence after Abel Tasman arrived a cartographer countryman of his renamed and labelled Aotearoa as “Nova Zeelandia” — or New Zealand.

As was common with European colonising at the time, they named lands because they discovered them in the full knowledge that Māori were already here.

The province that New Zealand is named after was an important hub for perfecting the slave trade from Africa, and in fact Holland was one of the last European countries to outlaw slavery in 1863. I would suggest there should be no surprise the apartheid practised in South Africa and Rhodesia was founded in large part by Dutch immigrants.

In 2016 Nigger Hill, Nigger Stream and Nigger Head on the Canterbury Plains were changed to Kānuka Hill, Pukiho Stream and Tawhai Hill. Yep in 2016.

As vice-president of the Māori Party, I agree and accept that if fellow Kiwis want to call themselves New Zealanders, they are welcome to. That’s why the Māori Party have raised a petition to formally change our name to our name.

The Māori language was made an official language of this country by an Act of Parliament in 1987.

We are legally entitled to assert the name Aotearoa.

So in 2021 Aotearoa, Māori and other Kiwis have a right to determine the way in which they see themselves in a new global village and will define themselves as citizens from Aotearoa.

Who knows anything about the names of major cities in Aotearoa and why we call them after people who did not even visit our shores? Lord Gisborne, Lord Auckland were not the lords of Tāmaki Makaurau or Te Tairāwhiti.

They are individuals who provided nothing to our nation’s statehood. That includes Abel Tasman. None of these people has had any impact on the evolution of our nationhood — apart from believing they would have memorials between themselves for visiting entitlement, theft, rape and pillage on indigenous populations.

When Mt Egmont was changed not so long ago back to its original Mt Taranaki, there was an initial outcry. Now Mt Taranaki flows off the lips. So fellow Kiwis are welcome to keep their history because we want to keep ours. But more importantly we want to define our future, Aotearoa.

John Tamihere is a former Labour Cabinet minister and vice-president of the Māori Party. He is also CEO of Urban Māori organisation Te Whānau o Waipareira.

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