A Name for Poles (People from Poland…)

So I have decided on a new Māori name for Polish people/people of Polish descent.  This was done in consultation with zero Māori people and one Polish person (me), so it’s not exactly official. I’m not sure how many Polish speakers of Māori there are – there’s at least one other than me – but hopefully they will like this name.

If you have followed the Ngāti/Ngāi series (or just already know these things) you will know that Ngāti indicates the iwi’s founder from whom the iwi is descended, and that Ngāti is also used nowadays to designate and name non-iwi groups. So, the name for people of Polish descent should be Ngāti … but Ngāti what?

There is a legend that goes as follows.  One day there were three brothers who went on a hunting trip together, named Lech, Czech and Rus. Each brother followed a different prey and headed in a different direction. Rus went East, Czech went West, and Lech, the eldest, went North. There Lech found himself face to face with a white eagle silhouetted against the red sky of the setting sun. Taking this as a good sign, he settled there, and in doing so, founded Poland.

As it turned out, he made a very poor choice as despite the fertile land, the country was pretty indefensible as well as a major thoroughfare for many armies in the area. That’s not part of the legend but its always good to know where to place the blame, and the blame is on the shoulders of Lech, who could be said to be the ancestor of Poland.

Now that we have the name of the ancestor, we need to make it fit as a Māori word. The only sound within his name that exists in Māori is the “e”, so we have to translate the “l” and the “ch” into Māori sounds. The letter “l” usually becomes an “r”. The “ch” is a kind of cross between a “k” and a “h” sound – I feel more of an “h” personally. You can’t end a Māori word in a consonant, so we need to add a letter on to the end, resulting in a transliteration of “Lech” to “Reha”. You can see also that if we went with a “k” for the “ch” we’d end up with “Reka” which would just be confusing. The word “reha” does not appear to already exist, although there are a few Māori people named Reha. And thus, I have coined the term Ngāti Reha for those of Polish descent, barring any discoveries that it is somehow horribly inappropriate.

Polska – Ngāti Reha

Image result for Polish flag
Picture of Polish flag (white at top, red on bottom) with the Polish crest feat. a crowned eagle in the centre of the top white section


Ngāti/Ngāi Series of posts:


2 thoughts on “A Name for Poles (People from Poland…)

    1. Kia ora, I’ve used it a couple of times but only when giving my pepeha to my class, most of whom already know me to some extent. My teacher didn’t comment on it, but he may not have been listening – he’s already heard me do a pepeha a couple of times so fair enough. I usually say “Nō Ngāti Reha ahau. Ko Ngāti Reha ngā tāngata nō/o Pōrana” – “I’m from Ngāti Reha. Ngāti Reha are the people of Poland.” I say this in order to clarify, and because obviously no one knows the meaning of a word I made up unless they read this post! However, this is less useful than it might seem because few people know the Māori word for Poland. One woman in my class came and asked if I was Māori, because she was confused because she heard the “Ngāti” part and then didn’t hear or understand the next bit.
      I feel that if people are allowed – or even recommended – to use “Ngāti Pākehā”, “Ngāti Tiamana”, etc. then people should also be allowed to actually choose how to identify our own whakapapa, especially when operating within the actual rules of the language.
      I wouldn’t use it in a very formal setting or when very scary people were present, lol.
      Thanks for your question.


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