Maori leader Dame Naida Glavish has waded into the push to change New Zealand’s name by claiming that “It was Aotearoa before we got a foreign sailor coming in here.” BFD writer Dieuwe de Boer however has blown that claim out of the water in his article It’s not a faux pas to use Aotearoa in English. Contrary to Dame Naida’s claim, Aotearoa as a name for all of New Zealand is actually a European invention.
Therein lies the problem most people ignore. In the Treaty of Waitangi, the land is only referred to as “New Zealand” and “Nu Tirani“. In modern times, the North Island has the official name of “Te Ika a Maui” (the fish of Maui) and the South Island is “Te Waipounamu” (the waters of greenstone), but prior to that the North Island was referred to as Aotearoa by some Maori.
Englishmen were the first to use “Aotearoa” as a collective name for our islands.
Aotearoa was popularised by men like Douglas Lilburn in his lovely Aotearoa Overture and Judge Thomas Henry Smith in his Maori translation of the national anthem. It was used frequently by historians like Governor George Grey and William Pember Reeves, and a host of European men from the Department of Education during the 19th and 20th centuries.
Therefore, Aotearoa is indeed an adopted English word, a great product of colonialism, and is undeserving of derision as “not English”. It’s also been adopted in Te Reo Maori as the primary name for New Zealand.thebfd.co.nz/2020/02/its-not-a-faux-pas-to-use-aotearoa-in-english/
Our Governor-General Patsy Reddy has also waded into the name change debate, saying that the proposal to change New Zealand’s name “is quite good because it acknowledges that there are two partners to the Treaty.”
The Governor-General’s role is to be non-political and non-partisan. Reddy should not be sticking her nose into the debate. As the Taxpayers Union have stated, ” Her commenting on a controversial political issue isn’t just inappropriate, it’s constitutionally wrong.”
New Zealand is the English name for our country and it should never be changed especially not for a Maori name that isn’t even historically accurate. If New Zealand (God Forbid) were ever forced to change its name to a Maori one then the Maori name on the Treaty would be the name to be used: Nu Tirani.
Even that name cannot be given legitimacy as there was never one universal Maori language. New Zealand contained many different Maori tribes and there were many words that they did not have in common. The written Maori language was created by the Europeans and it is that language that was built on in modern times to be the Maori language that is taught today.
The treaty was about making us one people under one law. New Zealand is not a Maori country, it is a multi-cultural country under an English system of law. We are all equal under the law and our country’s predominant language is English. According to Wikipedia English has never been made the official language of New Zealand. Perhaps there should be a push for that change to be made rather than the one to change our name?
Believe it or not the Maori language “was made the first de jure official language in 1987. New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) has been an official language since 2006.” If anything should be changed this should be changed. English is the dominant language and it should be the official language of New Zealand. It is ridiculous that the Maori language and Sign language have been given official status but English hasn’t. Where is the partnership and equality that the activists are all bleating about? Oh yeah, that’s right, it is only ever a one-way street.
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