What's in a name? The transitional change in what we now call our mountain......
Listening to Brooke Fletcher saying, in the TVNZ Closeup article of May 13 (on our Humble Manganui Ski Area being 1st in NZ to open for 2009)...
"Mt. Taranaki - Playground to the Gods"* got me thinking that, in a relatively short passage of time, how we as a province and nation, have adjusted our reference to our mountain from Mt. Egmont, to what we more commonly now call it Mt. Taranaki, or simply Taranaki.
[* Not to be confused with Keith Plummer’s Broken River Ski Area’s slogan ‘Payground of the Gods’]
Lead by the younger generation, this usage seems to fittingly bind us to our province, and makes us proud of our region.
Now for some recent history.
Before 1960 all maps had the name written as Mount Egmont (Taranaki). But from the first Egmont National Park map In 1960, Taranaki was omitted without any official announcement and it was at this time that agitation began to have the name changed.
In 1975 the Taranaki Maori Trust Board, on behalf of Taranaki Maori, petitioned parliament for the return of Mt. Taranaki. The petition also asked that the official name be changed from Egmont back to Taranaki.
In 1978 the Taranaki Maori Trust board gifted Egmont National Park to the nation. The Mount Egmont Vesting Act provided for the symbolic return of Mount Egmont to the Taranaki Maori Trust Board acting on behalf of the Maori tribes concerned, and the gifting of the mountain back to the Crown by the Board, for the purposes of a national park for the use and enjoyment of all the people of New Zealand.
This symbolic return was unpopular at the time with local Iwi.
[This grievance is due to be addressed by the Crown after all Taranaki Iwi have settled their Treaty Settlement claims. There are 8 Iwi in Taranaki, and all have a special affinity to the mountain.]
In 1986 the government changed the name on all future maps and publications to ‘Mount Taranaki or Mount Egmont’, with preference given to Taranaki.
Locally there was a huge uproar to this, and when local Iwi suggested to Taranaki's Daily News that they should start referring to it as it's official ‘Mount Taranaki or Mount Egmont’ name in their paper, the editor at the time, Murray Goston, conducted a stance of defiance, even going so far as to say that the Taranaki Daily News was a newspaper of English heritage and as such would ALWAYS refer to the mountain as its English heritage name, Mt. Egmont! They would not even consider using its official name.
Hard to believe, but this was only 23 years ago in 1986!
I am not sure if the current editor of the Daily News, Jonathan McKenzie, is aware of this!
But attitudes have certainly changed over time; lead I must say by our younger generation, who took to the Mt. Taranaki side of the double barrel name, and within a generation we have adjusted our reference to it.
"Go the Naki!" - need I say more?
These days it seems that we as a nation have moved forward in our acceptance of indigenous rights, Maori culture, and the Treaty Settlement process. Also, as a province and nation we have become more multi-cultural and accepting of various pacific and world cultures.
As New Zealanders living abroad will appreciate, it seems NZ's Maori Culture has more significance to NZers when overseas. It is what separates us from the rest of the world - what sets us apart and gives us our identity - Maori Culture is unique to New Zealand.
A good example is the wish of NZers living overseas, to either perform a haka or want one to be performed. It sends chills down the spine and reminds us of home. Or the Rugby World's awe in the All Blacks’ Haka.
Another is that how, in that short space of time where our national anthem has introduced an opening Maori verse, the acceptance and pride in which we now sing and know the Maori verses, again led by our siblings pride of our nation and anthem. Pre-schools, Day Care Centres, Primary Schools all promote the Maori language in its basic form of colours and numbers. Times have changed and it is our youth that have educated us, their parents.
Of course we still have a reference to Egmont in the official name, as the mountain resides within Egmont National Park as stated above.
History tells us that Egmont was the name given to our mountain by Captain Cook as he sailed by us in 1770. The Earl of Egmont was the sponsor of Cook’s voyage to these shores.
It is a known fact that before Cook another explorer of Dutch heritage, Abel Tasman, sailed by through the same waters in 1642, oblivious to the fact that there was a mountain within our province. He must have been, because he never gave our mountain a name!
How many times have we heard visitors to our province say that they have yet to see our mountain? It is most probable that the mountain was covered in cloud (as it sometimes can for days on end it seems) so he did not see it.
Otherwise our Mountain may have been given a name by Tasman, and one thing is for sure, it wouldn't have been Egmont! It would have most likely been named after the sponsor of his voyage. But then again, he had already named Tasmania “Van Diemen’s Land”, after one of the expedition’s chief instigators, the governor general of the Dutch East Indies, Anthony van Diemen. Perhaps he would have named it after another prominent governor.
French explorer Marion du Fresne sailed past in 1772, and on 25th March he sighted New Zealand - and in particular a snow-covered peak rising out of the horizon, "land having the appearance of a small island where one could see two white patches". du Fresne named this mountain of New Zealand Le Pic Mascarin (Mascarin Peak), after his frigate, quite unaware that Captain James Cook had already given it the name of Mount Egmont.
This name never stuck; in fact most people wouldn’t even know it was once referred to as Mascarin Peak, albeit by French explorers.
Chris Perkins, circa 1931
So, what is in a name?
As stated above, Mt. Egmont was the name given by Cook, in honour the Earl of Egmont, First Lord of the Admiralty, and at the time leader of the Plymouth Company. Interestingly Egmont himself never set foot in Taranaki or NZ, and the closest he got was Australia! He died of typhus at the age of 42.
Rua Taranaki was the name most recently given by Maori.
Before the name Rua Taranaki, the mountain was called Puke-Haupapa (Ice Hill) and Puke O Naki (graceful slopes).
Tradition holds that the chief Tahurangi climbed the peak and lit a ceremonial fire, which caused an alpine cloud to descend. In this rite the name of the ancestor Rua Taranaki was conferred on the mountain. The people of the Taranaki tribe have a saying: ‘The fire of Tahurangi brings forth the alpine cloud.It stands, elevated, and falls in the dawn and in the evenings’.
Traditions say that Puke O Naki once stood at Taupo. He and another mountain, Tongariro, both loved the beautiful maiden mountain Pihanga, and fought over her. Pukeonaki was beaten and retreated down the Whanganui River to the sea. Led north-west by a guide, Te Toka a Rauhoto, he saw the Pouakai mountain. He progressed up the Hangaataahua River (the Stony River), resurfacing in his final position beside Pouakai. When Taranaki is veiled in mist and rain it is said that he weeps for Pihanga and the eruptions , smoke and fire by Tongariro and Ngauruhoe are said to be their enduring anger.
The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 10, Issue 3 (June 1, 1935) The Wisdom of the Maori
Egmont National Park Management Plan www.doc.govt.nz
European discovery of New Zealand, http://www.teara.govt.nz
The Gliding Peak by David Rawson
History and Traditions of the West Coast by SP Smith