Schools anglicizing children’s Maori names without consent

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Last week, Maori Party education spokesperson MP Te Ururoa Flavell has come out against the deliberate attempt to “side-step” Maori topics in history classes by secondary schools in New Zealand saying that he was shocked to learn that many schools are avoiding teaching Maori topics and learning about the history of Aotearoa and its indigenous peoples.

This comes at a time when TangataWhenua.com has been following up stories from our readers about the practice of New Zealand schools anglicizing children’s Maori names, without the child or the family’s consent.

This comes after Campbell Live recently did a report on the Auckland Migrant Centre which was suggesting that in order to get job interviews, prospective employees should consider anglicizing their names. Now although there are similarities, there are significant differences, i.e. the issue of consent.

TangataWhenua.com has evidence from parents and caregivers in several city centres acrossAotearoasuggesting that in order to make it easier for teachers to “remember” children’s Maori names they are either being given “new” English names or using existing English middle names of children without the permission of either child or caregiver.

One child who attended a high decile school had only ever used her Maori name and was too embarrassed to say anything to school officials when they began using her middle name which was English, this was even after her mother had made it very clear to staff about the significance of her name.

When one parent asked about this the teacher told her,

there were more important things to worry about”.

This flies in the face of existing research which suggests that when Maori names are respected and pronounced correctly even positivehealth outcomes increase. Both the Medical Council of New Zealand and the New Zealand Dental Council recognise this in their resource material, with the Medical Council saying:

Maori language (te reoMaori) is the basis of Maori culture and is considered a gift from ancestors. It expresses the values and beliefs of the people and serves as a focus for Maori identity. For this reason, language and pronunciation are very important. Learning how to pronounce Maori names correctly is perhaps the single greatest way to show respect to yourMaori patients. In general, Maori place great emphasis on the spoken word, with words often viewed as links among the past, present and future.

While the Dental Council recognises the implicate nature of Maori names saying:

For many Maori people their name or their childrens name is a reflection of their identity, a tupuna (ancestor), iwi (tribal affiliation) or whakapapa (genealogy).

Research done in 2002 by Te Puni Kokiri regarding a Survey of Attitudes: Values and Beliefs about the Maori Language would suggest that views on the use of Te Reo and proper pronunciation by non-Maori differs a great deal from Maori with 89% of non Maori respondents having no desire to learn te reo Maori and 90% of non-Maori having the opinion that Maori language use should be confined to the marae or the home. So we are wondering if these differing views are held equally by non-Maori teachers? Our hope is that this is not the case…

If our doctors and dentists are being told of the importance of using correctly pronounced Maori names, shouldn’t our teachers? No doubt there are thousands of committed teachers who make every effort to pronounce our tamariki’s names correctly, but the impact of NOT pronouncing a child’s name correctlyis significant and needs to be addressed, regardless if they are Maori, Chinese, Indian or European.

MP Hone Harawira spoke to TangataWhenua.com about his experiences growing up and from the sounds of things not much has changed,

I remember asking my mum once why all my mates had Pakeha names except us. She said “Because they don’t know who they are yet son.” I didn’t understand that way back then, but it became clear to me as I got older. I found out later that most of my mates had Maori names but some of their parents didn’t want them having theirnames mispronounced, and I think that some of the kids themselves were a bit ashamed of their Maori names.

I found out later that most of my mates had Maori names but some of their parents didn’t want them having theirnames mispronounced, and I think that some of the kids themselves were a bit ashamed of their Maori names. Back then white was good.

Another issue which emerged from research carried out in 2007 into the use of te reo Maori in Secondary Schools suggests that what is more important than correct pronunciation of Maori words is that teachers actually make the effort to try and pronounce Maori words correctly:

One particular theme that emerged was the desire of students to see teachers making an effort to incorporate Maori language and culture into the lesson and the physical classroom space. The act of showing interest in the students worlds and their culture and language, had a significant impact on the students. This suggests that the students will make judgements on a teachers attitude towards them and their culture, based on many things.

For example, if a teacher mispronounces a Maori word, but asks for help in getting it right, or shows some interest in learning how to pronounce te reo correctly, then the act of mispronunciation had little or no affect on the student. The major issue for the students was on the attempt rather than the outcome.

On a positive note when one caregiver did notify the school’s administration and made it clear that the school was using an English name for her child without any one’s consent the school made certain that staff were informed and professional development workshops have been put in place so that staff can understand the significance of Maori names and importantly how to pronounce them (at the time of publication these we’ll update you on the outcome of these workshops).

Click here for documents we came across in researching this story:

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8 COMMENTS

  1. dont know wt your talking bout but just wanted to say i hate wat the parangi have done to all maori they just suck and im only a 14 year old they can kiss my

  2. Aroha mai Hone – when our host's server got upgraded we lost the use of tohutoa on our site, grrrr. Sincere apologies, something we have been looking into for some time now. Mauri ora!

  3. Aue, kare te paetukutuku nei e tautoko ana i te reo rangatira a-tohuto nei,

    No reira, ka tuhi ano au i taku i tuhi ai me te kore whai tohuto aku kupu. "Noku e whakaako ana i tetahi kura auraki i Akarana ki te tonga i riro i a au te kaupapa hitori te whakaako, na ko te hitori o Tiamani, o Ruhia tera. I taku uitanga atu ki te upoko o te tari hitori, he aha e kore ai e whakaako i nga hitori o Aotearoa? Ko tana urupare mai, ka whakaakona nga kaupapa e mohiotia ana e matou. E hoa ma ina penei te whakaaro o nga kaiako matua me pehea hoki nga akonga, Pakeha mai, Maori mai, Manene mai e mohio ai ki te korero mo tenei whenua o tatou?

    Heoi ano kia kaha te whakarite mai i tenei paetukutuku e taea ai te reo rangatira te noho rangatira.

  4. N?ku e whakaako ana i t?tahi kura auraki i ?karana ki te tonga i riro i a au te kaupapa h?tori te whakaako, n?, ko te h?tori o Tiamani t?r?, . I t?ku uitanga atu ki te upoko o te tari H?tori, he aha e kore ai te tari e whakaako i ng? h?tori o Aotearoa? Ko tana urupare mai, ka whakaakona ng? kaupapa e m?hiotia ana e m?tou. E hoa m? ina p?nei te whakaaro o te kaiako matua me p?hea hoki ng? ?konga, P?keh? mai, M?ori mai, Manene mai e m?hio ki te k?rero m? t?nei whenua o t?tou.

  5. On another note, is knowing our name enough? How are we educating others in the correct pronunciation/spelling of a name if we say nothing? There are numerous ways in which to spell Christel and I have no problems in dropping folks assumptions when they come up with anything other. We should not assume, but rather be courteous to ask, how to say ones name/word correctly and/or spell it. Being proud of our name, also entitles us the right to educate others, be we take the time to do so.

  6. This kind of attitude is nothing shy of blatant ignorance and far greater pulic awareness needs to be made that it will not be tolerated. How many children could get away with calling their teacher by anything but what they are told to say? NONE! Zero tolerance to anglicized names, teachers need to take the time to learn how to pronounce students/childrens names correctly, it is such a hypocrisy that they expect students to revise with homework, learn and be coherent yet in the same breath they feel it is their right to do the complete opposite? Educate the educated! HUH! Not if they keep their ignorant caps on.

  7. One parent I talked to had heard an instructor mispronouncing her child's name and corrected her, but what was more interesting is that when she told her son (who was under 5 at the time) that he COULD correct people when they said his name wrong he responded, "Mama, I KNOW my name", ka koi ia!!

    No doubt names are difficult, believe me, Nikolasa Hendrika Josephina Biasiny-Tule gets all sorts of injustices but knowing our tamariki are strong in their identity means that when their names DO get mispronounced OR anglicized, they are strong in their understandings of themselves and their names (Atutahi has 12 of them!).

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