So Land Information Minister Maurice Williamson has officially recorded the names of our two main islands, Te Ika-a-Maui and Te Waipounamu, or North Island and South Island.
But there’s a problem.
Even in the Minister’s own media statement – so I can’t totally hate our media for reporting it this way – the decision is described thus:
Land Information Minister Maurice Williamson today announced the recorded English names of the two main islands of New Zealand, the North Island and South Island, will be formalised.
“I have also approved the Geographic Board recommendation to assign official alternative Maori names for the two islands, Te Ika-a-Māui (for the North Island) and Te Waipounamu (for the South Island).
Um, fuck you, Maurice, and fuck your racist colonial framing of this decision.
Sorry, jumping ahead of myself. Here’s what Land Information New Zealand has to say about the alternative naming proposal:
The Board is seeking the public’s views on whether or not to formalise the names ‘North Island’ and ‘Te Ika-a-Māui’, and ‘South Island’ and ‘Te Waipounamu’, for the two main islands of New Zealand.
This means that, if the proposals are agreed, the existing English names and the Māori names for the islands will be able to be used officially, either individually or together. This also means they can be referred to as the ‘North Island’ or ‘Te Ika-a-Māui’, or the ‘South Island’ or ‘Te Waipounamu’ – or both names can be used together.
Spot the difference?
This issue has widely been discussed as though “North Island” and “South Island” have always been official – which they haven’t – and that the Māori names are “alternatives”. With the clear implication that they’re just an afterthought, a backup, a sop to the bleeding-heart liberals who probably aren’t even Māori anyway.
Both names are equally official and formalised, and have become so through this decision. Both names carry the same weight. Exactly as it should be.
But it’s not surprising we can’t discuss this properly. Elsewhere on LINZ’s FAQ you find this:
Everyone already knows the North and South Island names – why not just leave them as they are and forget about Māori names?
There is no legislation that formally assigns the names to the islands. The Board has a function to collect and encourage the use of original Māori place names.It should also be noted that both the English and Māori names for these islands appeared on early maps up to the 1950s, following which – for reasons we are unable to ascertain – the Māori names were omitted. In fact Captain Cook only showed Māori names (with different spelling) on his charts of New Zealand.
Yes. For “reasons we are unable to ascertain” indeed.
Related reading: my previous post on the issue
This post was originally published at The Daily Blog on 5 July 2013.
It’s that time of year when whitey complains about the fact that New Zealand is home to a unique indigenous language, and the best efforts of past whiteys has failed to eliminate it, and now we actually dare to treat it like a valuable thing which should be promoted, all to mess with the minds of tiny white babies who will get confused if they’re told there’s more than one way to say “three”.
By which I mean to say, it’s Māori Language Week.
Linguist Nathan Albury has a column in the Dominion Post hoping that we’re going to get a proper Māori language strategy which keeps te reo alive. But that doesn’t let us individual Pākehā off the hook, people.
Here’s some suggestions from Te Taura Whiri i te reo Māori – the Māori Language Commission.
Learn the 100 Māori words every New Zealander should know (and when you’re done there’s 365 additional words and phrases)
Download some resources for your office like bilingual signs
… and whenever you hear people bagging the promotion of te reo, or whinging that their children shouldn’t have to learn some Foreign Devil Tongue, remind them, using as many cusswords as you like, that te reo is unique to New Zealand, that it makes New Zealand English unique, that language learning does awesome things to your brain, and that it’s no more useless a bit of knowledge than all that fucking trigonometry we were forced to do at school.
Tragically, Nickolodeon is no longer hosting the video of the te reo Spongebob Squarepants episode they did for 2009, but here’s an interview with the voice actor!
I do actually kind of love these kinds of stories. See, despite white people settling themselves down in Aotearoa/NZ all those years ago and naming stuff after each other, it seems that the incredibly-creative “North Island” and “South Island” were never officially named as such.
So now the NZ Geographic Board, who have great form for innocently following procedure and stirring up white people’s privilege defence mechanisms, have suggested we official-ise the names – and maybe use Te Ika-a-Māui and Te Waipounamu instead, or in conjunction.
Cue the fucking whinging, and the incredibly bad reportage in the media. 3News hasn’t deigned to put the two-sentence blurb read out on last night’s broadcast onto their website, but their text article makes for some great close analysis:
The New Zealand Geographic Board (NZGB) has announced it will publicly consult on proposals to adopt new names for New Zealand’s two main islands.
Proposals to adopt new names. Because the names which the indigenous people of the country called something long before Whitey A said to Whitey B, “This one’s more north than the other one! And that one’s more south! Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” are obviously new scary terrifying changey things!!! which will destroy our society and confuse our children.
(And because of course it’s far too inconvenient to note that Whitey A forgot to follow proper process while re-naming the land he was appropriating.)
I’m with marty mars on this one. Use the names with provenance. Use the names which mean something. Use names which are undeniably New Zealand names.
And although the change is frightening, here’s a reassuring tale: a few generations back, one of my relatives was given the middle name Egmont. And today I explain to people, “well the name Egmont came from the fact they were living near Taranaki.” And if those people are under about 25? I have to explain why that makes sense.
It’s Maori Language Week, or Te Wiki o Te Reo Maori. Please excuse my lack of macrons, I do not wish to tempt fate and/or the fragility of WordPress.
First things first: serious, serious kudos to Nickelodeon. (Warning: auto-play)
Next: As soon as I saw Kelvin Davis had posted on Red Alert, in Maori, without providing a translation, I knew whinging trolls could not be far off. Call it instinct, call it seeing the same damn thing happen every time a university magazine publishes a Maori Language Week issue: