Could the name ‘New Zealand’ become history soon? The Te Pati Maori political party, which represents the indigenous Polynesian people, collected 70,000 signatures across a petition to change the country’s name. So the proposal could soon be submitted to Parliament. We are evaluating.
The name “New Zealand” could soon be relegated to the pages of the history books. The political party Te Pati Māori, representing the indigenous Polynesian population, launched an online petition in September 2021 to change the country’s name to “Aotearoa”, which means New Zealand in Maori. Almost a year later, more than 70,000 signatures were collected. That’s enough to force the national parliament to formally examine the project that was first proposed in 2021, according to US National Public Radio (NPR). As the party calls “Determine and formally restore the original Maori name of the respective cities and places by 2026”, Can we read the petition?
“This will have a huge positive impact on our ability to restore our language, but also to lift the trauma of colonialism, Debbie Ngariwa Packer, co-leader of Te Patti Maori, told NPR. It is as much about preserving our culture as it is about our well-being. »
From the year 950 to the present day
The history of New Zealand begins around the year 950. The island was discovered by the Polynesian people, the Moors, who decided to settle there. European explorer, Abel Tasman, only discovered the island in 1642, 700 years later. In 1769, the British James Cook discovered the island. Finally in 1840 the Treaty of Waitangi was signed, formalizing New Zealand’s status as a British colony. Later, for 150 years, Maori culture was erased, even in schools where it was forbidden to teach Maori, he recalls the scientistin an article published on August 2, 2020.
Today, things have changed a lot because Maori is the country’s second official language. In 2020, the Geographical Council of New Zealand, in Maori Ngā Pou Taunaha o Aotearoa, the national body responsible for naming places, approved the addition of 400 Maori names, across the entire territory. Another example, in 2018, the New Zealand organization that manages waste management set up multilingual recycling bins, only in certain cities. However, all this is not enough in light of the colonial past of the Te Pati Maori Party.
“It’s about restoring balance.”
“It is really important that we untie some of the grip of colonialism that hindered our ability to reach our true potential. One of the biggest things that is reflected in some of the poorer nations in the country is the lack of personal identity, the lack of understanding who the indigenous people are,” Debbie Ngariwa Packer, who still works with NPR, insists.
And she adds: “It’s about restoring balance, not just about the party […]. Some of the younger generations are getting up in schools and demanding change. So it is a battle between generations. I have a lot of hope and I think it will be fun because we are still a young nation. We are one of the last colonized countries in the world. So it’s possible that we’ll go through something that other countries have gone through before us. »
Previous similar cases
If the New Zealand Parliament adopts the Maori political party’s proposal, New Zealand will be officially named Aotearoa. It will not be the first country in history to change its name, but it should be noted that these changes are for common names and not official names. For example, France is a common name. Its official name is the French Republic.
We can therefore mention in particular the Czech Republic which, in 2016, submitted an application to the United Nations (UN) to officially become the Czech Republic. The president, Milos Zeman, had also stated, during a trip abroad in 2013, that he had already used the term “Czech Republic” which is shorter, and that he considered it warmer than “Czech Republic”.
Most recently, in January 2022, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan submitted an official request to the United Nations to change his country’s name to Turkey, instead of Turkey, either in English or French. Reason: The English name for Turkey is turkey, which also means “Turkey”. In a statement on behalf of the Turks, President Erdoğan said: This name corresponds more to Our Culture, Our People and Our Values.