Huia Come Home


Jay blogs about indigenous worldview, New Zealand History and the importance of cultural partnership. 

Changing Names

Well by now, many of you are aware that I have changed my name, either that or people are wondering who Jay Ruka is? When it comes to those who know me, those who know the book and then those, like say, the lady at the post office - depending on the person and the scenario people know me by differing names.

I was born Jefferson Paul Lucas, named by my 5-year-old brother who somehow, from somewhere in his childhood-head, came up with my uncommon name. Therefore, my family called me J.P. growing up. When I got to high school the ‘P' dropped and people started calling me ‘J’. Then someone started spelling it out: Jay, leading to adulthood where everyone knows me as Jay Lucas. Occasionally I’ll hear a Jefferson across the room when people latch on that that’s my actual name.

And now with the latest rendition, here’s where the Ruka story comes from: Ruka was the surname of my Great-Great-Grandfather, and my Great-Grandfather. My G-G-G’s name was Taare Ruka, but the Pākehā in the late 1800s called him Charlie Lucas. Classic: Taare to Charlie. At this point no one is sure where the Ruka part comes from, as his father was Hohepa Kopiri, but it’s definitely a transliteration of Lucas and Luke as first seen in the Paipera Tapu. I don’t know why at that time Ruka become the official name but I suspect it came about because Pākehā wanted a name classifications system to fit their paradigm.

My G-G’s name was Enoka Taitea Ruka. His Pākehā name was Robert Alan Lucas. He was known as Bob and is remembered by the old-timers back in Westport where he lies. His enrolment form into the NZ Army in 1815 has him signing the form as Robert Lucas. But marked between the first and last name is an “X” with the inscription, “his mark” written next to it. My 35-year-old Great Grandfather left Westport as Enoka Ruka, went to Gallipoli, survived and came home firmly cemented as Bob Lucas.

Robert Lucas X Signature.jpg


Over the last few years I have toyed with the idea of changing my name to my tūpuna name, but I figured with a book coming out, that could be bad P.R. However, with the things I know now about colonisation and my books exhortation to learn from a Māori worldview, I figured it was about time to consciously decolonise my name. So with the blessing of my parents and the encouragement of family and friends, I’ve gone back to Ruka as my family name.

Now, as most married woman are annoyingly aware of, I’ve got to change all my forms of I.D. Ugh.

Erin RukaComment