Whānau sticks with tradition of Māori names for their pēpi

updated By Tepara Koti
Ngāreta-Aroha Kopa-Dickson - Photo / Kopa whānau

While recent statistics released by the Department of Internal Affairs show that Māori names have failed to make the top 100 most popular baby names for 2014, one whānau say the passing on of Māori names to their children is an embedded tradition among them.

Statistics show that for the last 14 years, Māori boys names have failed to make the top 100, while Manaia, Anahera and the possibility of Maia as a Māori name, have featured sporadically over the same time period for Māori girls names.

Roimata Aroha Kopa, (Te Arawa, Ngāpuhi) gave birth to a healthy baby girl on Monday in Auckland. 

She says that while there is a general understanding of tradition when it comes to name-giving, sometimes the influences of today can depict the names Māori parents give their children.  She also believes it can be a special spiritual moment when choosing the right name, whether Māori or non-Māori, for your child.

For Ms Kopa’s whānau in Ōtaua, Northland, new-borns were taken to their tohunga, Rē Kauere, who would gift a suitable name for them when needed; a tradition that has since ended with the passing of Ms Kopa’s grandparents.

Ngāreta-Aroha Kataraina Arihia Kopa-Dickson, born on January 5, 2015.  ‘Ngāreta-Aroha’, meaning ‘the love letters’ that her mum would write as a young child.  Coincidently, both new parents also have ‘Aroha’ as their middle names.  ‘Kataraina’, is after Ms Kopa’s grandmother on her father’s side and great-grandmother on her mother’s side, and ‘Arihia’, after her pillar of strength, her older sister.

Regardless of recent statistics, Ms Kopa supports the idea of giving Māori first names as a way of keeping te reo alive, honouring whakapapa lineage and maintaining hapū or iwi traditions.