June 01, 2022
HE WHAKAARO | OPINION: Taking murderers and mercenaries off the map
By Atakohu Middleton
Kaiako/Lecturer, Te Wānanga Aronui o Tāmaki Makau Rau/Auckland University of Technology
I always feel a bit off when I turn into the street in Kirikiriroa where the headquarters of Waikato-Tainui is situated. Nothing to do with the destination, but a lot to do with the road name: Bryce St. Or, if you’re from Waikato and you know your history, Bryce Kōhuru. Bryce the Murderer. John Bryce who massacred Māori at Ōrākau Pā in 1864 and led the invasion of peaceful Parihaka in 1888. John Bryce who never actually set foot in Kirikiriroa. He’s also on the map in Cambridge and Kihikihi.
A considerable number of street names around Aotearoa were bestowed by bureaucrats sucking up to their bosses and/or memorising those whom colonial society admired; many of the latter were soldiers, volunteer militia, officials and land speculators to whom Māori were a distinct impediment. Hamilton, for example, was named after Captain John Hamilton, who, like Bryce, never set foot in the area; he died in the 1864 battle at Pukehinahina in which the British were routed.
Certain names are cause for great irritation (Cameron, Grey, Wakefield and Nixon among them) but iwi are asking for change and slowly seeing it. He pīki mihi to Hamilton City Council, which in April anounced that it would change Von Tempsky St to Pūtikitiki St to reflect the original name of the area, and to Porirua City Council, which in May changed Calliope St, the name of the warship on which Te Rauparaha was imprisoned, to Matahourua Crescent after the waka that carried Kupe here.
But there are lesser-known street names from the same colonial cohort all over the country. Here’s a selection.
Donald McLean was behind some of the dodgiest land deals of the settler era and remains all over the landscape, not least in a park in Napier, a street in Waitara and a road in Newtown, Wellington. Once upon a time, a 400m hill in Waitākere and the track leading to it also bore his name, but as part of the settlement of Te Kawerau a Maki claims in 2015, the name Te Rau-o-te-Huia was added.
Chute St in Normanby, Taranaki, recalls Major-General Trevor Chute, who in 1865 led a six-week campaign that ruthessly razed people, pā and kāinga between the Waitōtara River and Taranaki Maunga.
Fenton St in Rotorua recalls Judge Francis Fenton, architect of the whenua-stealing Native Land Court. I haven’t yet been able to find out if the two Fentons in Tāmaki Makau Rau, in Mt Eden and Papatoetoe, relate to him as well.
Whitmore Street in Wellington and Kihikihi memorialise Sir George Whitmore, who became head of the armed constabulary and led numerous campaigns against Māori, including invading Te Urewera in his pursuit of Te Kooti.
In Matatā in the Eastern Bay of Plenty, as this interesting paper says, street names “remind Ngāti Awa of their colonial oppressors.” Militia recalled by street signs include Mair and St John streets, named after Major Gilbert Mair and Lieutenant-Colonel John Henry Herbert St. John. Wilson and Pollen streets were named after government commissioners Rev J A Wilson and Dr Daniel Pollen.
As discussion mounts around the motu on which names need to change, there is an argument that to do so is to erase history. However, I’m with the Kīngitanga’s Ngira Simmonds on this. A few weeks ago, on the Radio Waatea show Manako, he said that history would not be lost as it existed above and beyond street signs.
Then he made an excellent point: “We don’t see any local roads called Hitler St, or Stalin St, do we?” Quite. And that is why we need remove memorials to murderers and mercenaries from our landscape. There names were imposed on Māori, and it’s time for the worst offenders to retired from the map.
Postscript: Pleasingly, as I finished writing this column, I found that I had to add another paragraph. Waikato-Tainui has announced that it is planning to go to the Hamilton City Council to change Bryce St. Hurō!
Radio Waatea and its board would like to advise that the opinions posted are those of Atakohu Middleton and not the views of Radio Waatea, its management or its board.