Petition wants to “decolonize” the name New Zealand

Aotearoa’s name already appears on official documents, passports and even banknotes. Adobe Stock / slyellow

The platform, which also wants to review all the names of “towns, cities and monuments” to give them the Maori name, has collected more than 70,000 signatures. It is enough for the country’s parliament to consider it.

Don’t call it New Zealand again. A petition, launched by Te Pati Maori (literally “The Maori Party”), called for the Pacific country to be renamed to take on the Maori name and thus erase some of its colonial past. The text calls on the House of Representatives to call New Zealand “Aotearoa” (pronounced au-te-ah-ro-uh) from now on. And the political party doesn’t stop there as it also calls for a review of all “towns, cities and monuments” names to return to their Māori name by 2026.

The text has already collected 70,000 signatures. According to the Quartz media website, this figure is sufficient for Parliament to consider the proposal. It can then be voted on or put to a referendum. “This should allow us, not only to recover our language, but also to erase some of the trauma of colonialism,” Representative Debbie Ngariwa Packer, co-leader of the Te Pati Maori Party, said in an interview with USNPR.

The name is already on the banknote

Discovered by Dutch explorer Abel Tasman (who gave his name to Tasmania) in 1642, New Zealand was first named “Statenland” and then “Nova Zeelandia” in reference to the southern province of Zeeland – west of the Netherlands. Then New Zealand became “New Zealand” when the country became part of the British Empire in 1840.

According to the Maori party leader, Aotearoa refers to the clouds that would have directed early Polynesian navigators to these distant lands. The term is increasingly used in the country: it appears in some official documents, passports and even banknotes. As the Wall Street Journal pointed out, the most formal statement released by New Zealand and the United States in May mentioned Jacinda Ardern as the “Prime Minister of Aotearoa-New Zealand”.

Since 2018, several petitions and counter-petitions have respectively demanded a change of New Zealand’s name or, conversely, the name of New Zealand. Overall, the country has been working for several years to reconnect with its origins by encouraging the use of Maori – one of its three official languages ​​alongside English and sign language.

This fight does not stop at language. In 2015, the New Zealand government launched a competition to redesign the country’s flag, with the British Union Jack symbolizing it. But the new version of the flag was eventually voted on in a popular referendum after months of heated debate.

Generation question?

Debbie Ngariwa Packer, co-leader of the Maori Party, sees this procrastination as an intergenerational struggle. The Māori population is young: 70% is under the age of 40 and 25% is under the age of 20. On the other hand, the previous generation, brought up in a system from which Māori were absent, has a much more “monocultural” view.. For her, New Zealand, “One of the last countries to be colonized”he goes “The live episodes that other countries have already gone through to regain their identity.”

Take, for example, Swaziland, which officially changed its name in 2018 to become Eswatini (the country of the Swazis in the Swati language). Australia, for its part, changed its national anthem, as it was not sufficiently representative of the aboriginal culture.

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