Today I read a post that the Novotel in Taranaki has been named the Novotel New Plymouth Hobson with the restaurant called ‘The Governor’. I was immediately sickened by the lack of any sensitivity or thought for the impact of such naming on our people.
Naming is important. Name carry memories, names carry meaning, names carry history. The hotel sits on Hobson street and the owners of the Novotel have chosen to not only reproduce that in their naming of the hotel but to add more insult to our people through the naming of their restaurant.
This follows from the New Plymouth District council decision to name new streets in Waitara after a developers family and denying hapū the ability to name the streets.
The impact of the decision was strongly voiced by Howie Tamati, and supported by the Mayor Andrew Judd, to the Taranaki Daily News:
But Councillor Howie Tamati said not using the names put forward by the hapu would be a big mistake.
He said a number of the roads in Waitara, such as McLean St and Craycroft St, were named after soldiers and officers involved in the confiscation of Maori land over 100 years ago.
“The names of the streets in Waitara are a constant source of pain and of grievance of what happened when the lands of Waitara were confiscated,” he said.
Tamati said it was important in terms of history to get it right.
“Waitara’s been stood upon by the boot of the crown, and we’ve just been through a process that heals those wounds.
“For the Waitara community board and Waitara district councillors to then go and change that and actually dominate that I think is really, really disappointing. You should know better.”
Mayor Andrew Judd agreed with Tamati.
“You may sit here and think ‘what’s in the name of a road?’ Clearly it means a hang of a lot,” he said.
“This isn’t just family names, this is historic names for pa sites for goodness sake.”
Using the Maori names would send “a strong message back there that we are addressing some of these wrongs”, he said.
Being raised in Waitara, every day we were surrounded by streets named after the colonial militia and colonial governors who instigated and led the invasion of our lands. We were raised on the Pekapeka block. Everyday street signs remind us of those who forcibly removed our ancestors from our lands, those who invaded and occupied our lands, those who killed and imprisoned our people, who placed our men in chains and imprisoned them in Otago, who led the militia that raped our tupuna wahine.
What the owners of the Novotel New Plymouth Hobson, and the New Plymouth District Council fail to understand is the depth of the insult and offense being perpetrated through the continued privileging of colonial names over and above those of hapū.
For many of our people the history of Waitara can still be felt in the land and air. The historical trauma of that history has been carried by generations of whānau, hapū and iwi of Taranaki. The pain and struggle of a colonial past, of war and raupatu can be felt. The consequences of the colonial invasion of Taranaki is borne daily by many. Colonisation has not only meant the alienation of our lands, people, language and culture but the processes of colonisation have meant an active disruption of our landscapes, our whānau, hapū and iwi structures, our-selves. Much of the knowledge of these acts have been kept out of the hands of the majority of people in this country. The violence of colonisation has been largely invisibilised. One way of doing that is the renaming of the land to render its history invisible.
In a catalogue for an exhibition, at the Govett Brewster Art Gallery, titled ‘The Nervous System’ I wrote the following reflection:
I was born and raised in Taranaki.
I have lived under the korowai of the Maunga and have experienced the awe of seeing Taranaki stand firmly on the landscape, defining the geography in a way that we who live under his shadow nay never achieve.
I have lived alongside the awa and the Moana. Known them in their strength and beauty. Known them in their provision of kai, before they were poisoned.
I have lived on land that was taken from my people and watched as my parents struggled to ‘pay the rent’ on land that was rightfully ours.
I was schooled alongside Owae Whaitara, the marae that stands above the township. We walked through and around that space every day and were never schooled within its bounds. It was an ‘out of bounds’ area.
I learnt of a history of this land that told us of Cook and Tasman and Browne. And I knew these names because they named the streets upon which I walked. They named my world.
I was told we were all the same. New Zealanders/National identity/Kiwi/Egalitarian/National identity/One New Zealand/One identity.
But I knew that to be Maori wasn’ t the same. And I see now why we were never to know who we were. Identity had to be controlled. So the system could be maintained. As without the system the “Nation” would be fragmented.
And we would be left with a Nervous System.
Historical trauma is reproduced in many ways in our current context. The naming of hotels and streets after colonial forces and denying our people the right to name our lands is one of those processes. Historical trauma is defined by Professor Karina Walters as follows:
When I am talking about historical trauma I am talking about massive cataclysmic events that target a collective. I am not talking about single event discriminatory experiences that’s between one or two people but a whole group of people or community that is targeted. In our communities we talk about how this trauma is transmitted over generations so I may not have experienced the Trail of Tears, my great grandparents did so therefore what aspects of that trauma do I still carry in my history to this day…. One of the things that’s really hard to distinguish around historical trauma research is how we think about historical trauma as a factor. Some people talk about historical trauma as an ideological factor, as a causal factor, so we look at thinks like historically traumatic events causing poor health outcomes. Other folks talk about historical trauma itself as an actual outcome in terms of things like historical trauma response or a Native specific ways of manifesting what I call colonial trauma response and I will talk a bit more about that, historical trauma can also be conceptualized as a mechanism or a pathway by which trauma is transmitted. (Walters 2010)
In Taranaki, whānau, hapū and iwi have continued to experience the devastating effects of those, and ongoing, acts of colonial violence. As the Waitangi Tribunal report states ‘If peace is more than the absence of war’, Taranaki has never been at peace.
Having more streets and more hotels being named in ways that reinforce the colonial invasion of Taranaki adds yet another layer of pain and trauma, that will mean that for yet another generation Taranaki will not know peace.
Dr Leonie Pihama (Te Atiawa, Ngāti Māhanga, Ngā Māhanga a Tairi)