Why New Zealand’s Māori Party wants to change the country’s name to Aotearoa?

·3-min read
Why New Zealand’s Māori Party wants to change the country’s name to Aotearoa?
Why New Zealand’s Māori Party wants to change the country’s name to Aotearoa?

Māori Party in New Zealand started a petition to change the official name of New Zealand to Aotearoa. However, a peep into the history of the country reveals the reason behind the new demand.

Aotearoa: The official name of New Zealand?

The Māori Party, New Zealand’s indigenous political party called the parliament. They also started a petition to change the official name of New Zealand to Aotearoa. In addition to this, the petition seeks to identify and officially restore the original Te Reo Maori names. For all towns, cities, and places right across the country by 2026. In addition to this, Aotearoa, in Te Re Maori language, means the land of the long white cloud. “It’s well past time that Te Reo Maori was restored to its rightful place as the first and official language of this country. We are a Polynesian country, we are Aotearoa,” said Rawiri Waititi, the co-leader of the party.

“Tangata Whenua [the indigenous people] are sick to death of our ancestral names being mangled, bastardized, and ignored. It’s the 21st Century, this must change,” stated Waititi. “In only 40 years, the Crown managed to successfully strip us of our language and we are still feeling the impacts of this today. Hence, it is well past time that Te Reo Maori was restored to its rightful place as the first and official language of this country. We are a Polynesian country. We are Aotearoa.” According to the party the fluency in the native language reduced by 64 percent between 1910 and 1950.

Aotearoa: The origin story

Aotearoa: The origin story
Aotearoa: The origin story

Moreover, as per the tribals in New Zealand, the name Aotearoa was first used by Kupe, an East Polynesian explorer somewhere between 1200 and 1300 AD. Moreover, legends say that Kupe and his wife Kuramarotini, along with their crew were traveling beyond the horizon. They spotted a large mass of land shrouded in white clouds. Then, Kuramarotini exclaimed “He ao! He ao! He Aotea! He Aotearoa (A cloud, a cloud! A white cloud! A long white cloud!)”

However, some believe that the name arose later on as the Maori’s never had a name for the land. “Maori didn’t have a name for these lands. And only came to accept ‘Aotearoa’ in relatively recent times,” said Michael Bassett, a former Labor MP. Although, the Maori Party claims that the name is in the pages on history.

Prime Minister Ardern has not yet made public remarks on the petition. However, in a meeting last year, she said that it was a positive development. However, an official name change was not something that we’ve explored, she said in 2020.

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