The power of names

NAMES have “mana.” They are powerful. We use names everyday to identify individuals, places and things. We therefore take for granted that they simply exist. We often forget that names were given, and the act of “giving” is an act of power – to name a person and place is to have power over them. Many times, we also overlook the fact that names embody stories, genealogies, histories, social instructions, and knowledge about life and the environment we are part of. In other words, names of people, landscapes and seascapes are not just identifiers of individuals and places.

They are repositories of knowledge, histories and cultures. Names embody epistemologies. Because of this, it is important to respect names, use them with care and take seriously the act of naming. PEOPLE’S NAMES The tradition of naming people after their father is relatively new in most Pacific Island places. In the past, every individual has his or her own name or were named after ancestors. People’s names tell stories about past events, the characters of ancestors, cultural norms, and instructions about acceptable social behaviors.

Think of the names of people around you and the meanings associated with them. In the absence of writing, we remember and tell the past as well as teach cultural norms and provide social instructions through the names of places and the living…

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