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Harold Schiffman haroldfs at gmail.com
Tue Apr 23 11:16:06 EDT 2019


New Place Names Lift Māori Culture in New Zealand’s Capital

   1. CHRIS FITCH <https://www.citylab.com/authors/chris-fitch/>

 8:00 AM ET
A new policy in Wellington aims to revitalize the indigenous Māori
language. First up: giving new, non-colonial names to sites around town.

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On a hot weekday in late summer, Wellington’s Civic Square is full of life.
Children run around shouting, parents trying to keep up. Students sprawl in
the sunshine, while suited businesspeople stride purposefully from one side
to the other, deep in conversation. A jogger enters the square, eyes
darting, as he seeks a path through the human obstacles in front of him.

Here, in the shadow of Town Hall, at the center of the city’s urban
landscape, Wellington’s heart and soul are on show. In recognition of this
special area of public space, the square recently acquired a new
Māori-inspired name:
<https://wellington.govt.nz/your-council/news/2018/06/new-name-for-civic-square>
 *Te Ngākau*. Meaning “the heart,” the name recognizes a place with a key
role in bringing the city’s roughly 400,000 residents together.
Under the new policy, Māori names are chosen for places around Wellington
by local officials in consultation with *mana whenua*, the guardians of
Māori culture. (Chris Fitch)

The new moniker is part of a city policy called *Te Tauihu*. Adopted in
June 2018, the policy aims to promote the indigenous Māori language
*te reo* (“the
language”) in a series of steps until it is level with English. (The name
of the policy, *Te Tauihu*, refers to the ornately carved prows of Māori
boats, leading the way forward through the waves.) Ultimately, the
Wellington City Council hopes to make the city bilingual by 2040.

“I remember years ago, when people were saying, ‘What’s the point of
learning *te reo* Māori?’” Deputy Mayor Jill Day, a central architect of
the policy, told CityLab. “We’re showing people what the point is, because
it’s going to be everywhere. It’s going to be in your interest to
understand enough to be able to function in a community that’s
acknowledging a really important part of our heritage.”

In New Zealand, the English names of towns and cities, streets and parks,
are mostly imported from Victorian Britain. The capital itself is named
after Arthur Wellesley, first duke of Wellington (1769–1852).

Captain James Cook launched Britain’s claim over New Zealand in 1769, a
claim that was “formalized” in 1840 with the signing of the Treaty of
Waitangi between the Crown and hundreds of Māori chiefs. A series of land
wars then followed between Māori and the rapidly rising number of British
settlers, many of whom owned land sold to them illegally, without
consultation with the communities living there. (This problem was
exacerbated by the two translations of the treaty offering different
interpretations of territorial ownership.)

Backed by the might of the British Empire, which committed thousands of
troops to suppress Māori resistance, the settlers emerged victorious, and
the late 19th and early 20th centuries saw mass immigration from the United
Kingdom. Now, more than 70 percent of the population of nearly 5 million
are Pākehā (that is, New Zealanders of European descent), while the Māori
population has dwindled to below 15 percent.

Although it is technically an official language of New Zealand, fluency in *te
reo* Māori is extremely low; it is spoken by only about 3 percent of the
population (English, by comparison, is near-universal). But interest in it
does appear to be growing nationwide. Te Wānanga o Aotearoa, one of the
country’s newer higher-education centers, reports significant year-on-year
increases in numbers of *te reo*students, while Prime Minister Jacinda
Ardern has publicly promoted *te reo* learning, calling for 1 million new
speakers by 2040
<https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/education/106960314/prime-minister-jacinda-ardern--encourages-new-generation-of-te-reo-mori-speakers>
.
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While the rise in interest certainly predates Ardern’s election in 2017,
her enthusiasm for the language has ensured federal support for this
grassroots movement. Ardern has included *te reo* phrases in multiple
high-profile speeches and gave her daughter the middle name *Te Aroha*,
“love.”

For Wellington, Civic Square doubling as *Te Ngākau *is only the beginning.
In consultation with *mana whenua*, the guardians of Māori culture (as
decided by tribal authority and genealogical ancestry), officials are
adopting vocabulary from *te reo* to create new dual place names around the
city.

The nearby waterfront was recently christened *Ara Moana*—“ocean
pathway”—acknowledging the vital maritime history of the space among both
Māori and Pākehā. Frank Kitts Park has become Whairepo Lagoon,
<https://wellington.govt.nz/your-council/news/2018/09/waterfront-lagoon-name-highlighted>
named
for the eagle rays (*whairepo*) that inhabit the waters.
Whairepo Lagoon, or Frank Kitts Park, was named for the eagle rays (
*whairepo*) that inhabit the waters. (Chris Fitch)

Errors made by Europeans in the spellings of Māori names they carried into
the public domain are also being corrected as part of *Te Tauihu*. So
Waripori Street is likely to become either Wharepouri or Wharepōuris Street
in the near future.

The renaming of the city’s electoral wards reveals fascinating stories
about the underlying geography of Wellington. For example, Lambton ward was
once home to hill slopes full of *hīnau* trees, from which delicious
berries would grow. While the trees may be gone, the addition of *Pukehīnau*,
or “hill of the *hīnau* tree,” recognizes this ecological history in the
new name “*Pukehīnau* – Lambton.”

Additionally, the large Miramar Peninsula, where the city’s airport is
located, was once a separate island known as *Motukairangi*, the
“sky-gazing” (or “sky-eating”) island—one of the most prestigious locations
in the entire landscape, according to Māori legend. Renaming what is
currently Eastern ward “*Motukairangi* – Eastern” acknowledges this
heritage.

Plenty of city institutions and businesses are also adopting the policy.
Wellington Zoo is introducing *te reo* names for its different zones. The
newspaper *The Dominion Post* took a second *te reo *name, *Te Purongo o te
Upoko-o-te-Ika* (meaning “the report from the head of the fish,” in
reference to a Māori legend about New Zealand’s North Island once being
fished out of the ocean). And Wellington’s netball team, the Pulse, is now
known as Te Wānanga o Raukawa Pulse, and there are Māori words printed on
the players’ uniforms.

Whether or not most residents are aware of the policy, their engagement
with *te reo* Māori looks set to increase simply through the steady
implementation of these changes.

Of course, making a city bilingual requires a lot more than adding new
names to street signs. Another big part of *Te Tauihu* is telling stories
from Māori ancestry that have been covered up by the city’s British
colonial dominance (as demonstrated by the large statue of Queen Victoria
on the central Kent and Cambridge terraces). A heritage trail will
eventually mark the locations of old Māori villages. Bilingual playgrounds
will incorporate Māori stories into their designs, and Māori legends will
be commemorated at the iconic Mount Victoria (which may be re-anointed with
the name *Tangi te Keo*).
Recommended

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   The Indigenous Voice of Mexico City
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   1. FEIKE DE JONG <https://www.citylab.com/authors/feike-de-jong/>
      2. GUSTAVO GRAF <https://www.citylab.com/authors/gustavo-graf/>
   JUN 4, 2018
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   <https://www.citylab.com/design/2016/11/languages-spoken-in-new-york-city-map/506054/>
   The Ultimate Map of New York's Non-English Languages
   <https://www.citylab.com/design/2016/11/languages-spoken-in-new-york-city-map/506054/>
   1. JOHN METCALFE <https://www.citylab.com/authors/john-metcalfe/>
   NOV 1, 2016
   -
   <https://www.citylab.com/life/2016/08/a-new-dictionary-down-under/497198/>
   A New Dictionary Down Under
   <https://www.citylab.com/life/2016/08/a-new-dictionary-down-under/497198/>
   1. MATT FORD <https://www.citylab.com/authors/matt-ford/>
   AUG 24, 2016

Ocean Mercier, who teaches Māori Science and Cultural Mapping at the
Victoria University of Wellington, describes the policy as similar to
cleaning a pair of glasses: “It’s almost like there’s a colonial filter
over everything that’s preventing us from accessing these amazing stories,”
she said.

Perhaps the ultimate question for Wellington is whether the city name
itself might, one day, be changed to something that’s not colonial. As Vini
Olsen-Reeder, a lecturer in the School of Māori Studies at Victoria
University, points out, there was originally no reason for Wellington to
have a singular name: The various tribal villages in this location never
saw themselves as parts of one whole, as we view the city now. The *te reo*
 equivalent *Pōneke* is currently used by the city council, but the future
of this particular point is left unaddressed by *Te Tauihu* at present.
There was originally no reason for Wellington to have a singular name: The
various tribal villages in this location never saw themselves as parts of
one whole.

Wellington has a reputation as a young, progressive bastion in New Zealand,
and support for the *te reo* policy is consistently above 90 percent. That
would likely not be matched in other parts of the country. (“Yes, we are
probably in a bit of a bubble,” Day, the deputy mayor, admitted.)

Even so, *Te Tauihu* will be no overnight revolution. For now, the policy
exists mainly in the minds of its proponents and the glossy documents
handed around in the offices of the city council. Very little public
signage appears to yet reference *Te Ngākau* or *Ara Moana*, while there is
plenty that still points the way to either “Civic Square” or “Waterfront”
(new signs will be in place by 2020, according to the plan’s timeframe).
Pronunciation will also take time. “We’ve still got a journey to go for
people to pronounce names correctly,” Day said.
Plenty of signs in Wellington are still all-English. (Chris Fitch)

*Te Tauihu* has the potential to be much more than an inclusive gesture.
Across the world, indigenous languages are dying out. Half of the world’s
roughly 7,000 languages are expected to be extinct by the end of this
century <https://www.endangeredalphabets.com/>. “From a revitalization
point of view, it takes one generation to lose a language and three to get
it back,” Olsen-Reeder said. So a two-decade timeframe of concerted action
might be necessary to drive real, lasting change t

-- 
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 Harold F. Schiffman

Professor Emeritus of
 Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

Phone:  (215) 898-7475
Fax:  (215) 573-2138

Email:  haroldfs at gmail.com
http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/~haroldfs/

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