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Tapa Whenua - Naming the Land

By Ann

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.

Tuihono kōrero - Online talks

"Taunaha Whenua: Naming the Land"

On Matariki 2020, 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.

Pukapuka - Books

Rauemi ipurangi - Online Resources

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