Caution for Pākehā who give their children Māori names

By Heta Gardiner

Should Pākehā give their children Māori names? One Māori language expert believes there are instances where it can be appropriate but says caution should be taken. 

"I believe that if a Pākehā does that (give their child a Māori name), then it shows that they have affection and respect for the Māori people. But if Pākehā want to give their children Māori names, then they must know the history and the meaning of those names," says Tāwhirimātea Williams, who has been teaching te reo Māori for decades.   

Last year Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern gave birth to a baby girl.  The middle name given was Aroha, despite neither her nor her partner Clark having any Māori ancestry. 

"The prime minister gave her baby the name Aroha.  She knows the meaning of that word, she is fond of that word, and perhaps also has affections for the Māori world.  She has shown us that she not only has affection for the Pākehā world but ours as well, hence her giving her baby that name.  How can you argue with that?" says Williams.

But Williams believes not all give such consideration when it comes to using Māori names.

He was furious at the use of the name of Ngāti Kahungunu ancestor Tutere Moana, to sell cheese.  

"They didn't give thought- like the prime minister did- to the meaning of the word, the essence of the word, the history of the word.  Therefore I don't agree with them giving that name to their food, for goodness sake, it's food!  It is disrespectful, he is a scared ancestor."