Tapa Whenua: Naming the Land

Tēnā koutou katoa, e te whānau! Matariki is a time for recollection and remembering, as well as hope for the new year. In this post, Ann Reweti, our Māori Customer Specialist, brings together a range of resources that outline the history of place names here in Te Whanganui-a-Tara and farther afield.

As Te Ara, The Encyclopedia of New Zealand has it:

“The adage ‘to name is to claim’ has been central to discovery and exploration since time immemorial – Māori call it tapa whenua, whakaingoa whenua or whakahau whenua

Naming places involved a number of customs, including:

  • transplanting Polynesian ancestral names and symbolism to New Zealand places
  • taunaha (naming after body parts) to emphasise personal claims to land
  • naming places according to their features
  • naming places after people
  • naming for historical or spiritual reasons
  • naming to celebrate cultural icons.”

Ngā Ingoa Peka Māori: Our Māori Branch Names

Our whare pukapuka each have a Māori name. The stories of these names, and the places they relate to can be found on our branch names page.

Online Kōrero


“Taunaha Whenua: Naming the Land”
This Matariki, Wellington City Libraries were proud to tautoko a kōrero by Honiana Love, Tumu Whakarae of Ngā Taonga, called “Taunaha Whenua: Naming the Land”. Honiana spoke about history of place names used by mana whenua in this rohe, packing out the National Library Auditorium.

“Memorials, Names and Ethical Remembering”
The day before, the National Library also held their first Public History talk for the year, “Memorials, Names and Ethical Remembering”, with Morrie Love, Nicky Karu and Ewan Morris.

We’re glad to be able to share links to recordings of both those kōrero.

Books


Illustrated Maori place names / Reed, A. W.
“Many Maori place names date back to the very earliest days of habitation in Aotearoa New Zealand. Some, in fact, originated in the Hawaiki homeland and were adapted to the new land. Whatever their origin, most reflect the Maori’s closeness to the forces of nature and incorporate common words for everyday things. Lavishly illustrated, this dictionary explains and interprets over 1500 place names as well as providing a guide to pronunciation.” (Catalogue)

Making our place : exploring land-use tensions in Aotearoa New Zealand
“Fascination with the interplay of people and place inspired the editors to bring together New Zealanders from different backgrounds and disciplines to explore some of the stories and sites of conflict and change to be found amongst our sacred, historic, rural, urban and coastal landscapes.” (Catalogue)

Exploring Aotearoa : short walks to reveal the Māori landscape / Janssen, Peter
“Take a short walk with this book and see the Maori landscape through fresh eyes. Maori culture has close ties with the landscape, in pa and early battle sites, and in myths and legends. From north to south, nearly 200 of the most accessible and memorable landmarks can be visited including volcanic summits, headlands, lakes and islands as well as pa sites urupa (graveyards), and hunting and fishing grounds.” (Catalogue)

Boundary markers : land surveying and the colonisation of New Zealand / Byrnes, Giselle
“In a country where land disputes were the chief cause of conflict between the coloniser and the colonised, surveying could never be a neutral, depoliticised pastime. In a groundbreaking piece of scholarship, Giselle Byrnes examines the way surveyors became figuratively and literally ‘the cutting edge of colonisation’. Clearing New Zealand’s vast forests, laying out town plans and deciding on place names, they were at every moment asserting British power. Boundary Markers also shows how the surveyors’ ‘commercial gaze’, a view of the countryside coloured by the desire for profit, put them at odds with the Māori view of land.” (Publisher’s Description).

Online Resources


The Great Harbour of Tara, by G. L. Adkin.
This work details the traditional Māori place-names and sites of Wellington. It is available in full through Wellington City Libraries’ Recollect site.

Te Ara o nga Tupuna: The path of our ancestors.
“Te Ara o nga Tupuna: The path of our ancestors” is a trail around Te Whanganui-a-Tara which takes in many traditional sites. The trail description on our website contains many kōrero about these places, and the history of their names.

Nga Tupuna o Te Whanganui-a-Tara (Vol. 1).
The Nga Tupuna project was initiated by Wellington City Libraries working in collaboration with the Wellington Tenth’s Trust. While the history of Maori ownership of land around the Wellington area was being researched as part of various Treaty of Waitangi claims, it was felt that not enough emphasis was being given to the biographies of the individuals being named in those claims. This document is the first of four volumes of collected biographies. (WCL Recollect).

He Korero Purakau mo nga taunahanahatanga a nga tupuna: Place names of the ancestors, a Māori oral history atlas.
This title collects oral histories of place names from around Aotearoa, and is available as a digital resource, from LINZ, as well as in our library collection.

The Pukeahu Anthology.
“Pukeahu: An Exploratory Anthology” is a place-based anthology of waiata, poems, essays, and fiction about Pukeahu / Mt Cook, a small hill in Wellington, Aotearoa-New Zealand that rises between two streams.

Kā Huru Manu : the Ngāi Tahu cultural mapping project.
Kā Huru Manu is dedicated to recording and mapping the traditional Māori place names and associated histories in the Kāi Tahu rohe.

To learn more about place names, or any other of ngā mea Māori, you can email Ann Reweti here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *