Whanganui Maori want the area's name to be spelt exclusively with an 'H', among calls for Treaty settlements made in a damning report into the Crown's history with local iwi.
A Waitangi Tribunal report released today into the area's 83 Treaty claims has found Whanganui Maori historically suffered from lack of input into politics and were still held back by a lack of control over their own affairs.
Presiding officer Judge Carrie Wainwright said the Crown had deliberately deceived iwi in some land purchases – such as the Whanganui block – with others falling short of the standard of both the Treaty and British law.
"It was a truly shoddy affair: hurried, penny-pinching, and involving the illegal purchase of children's interests," she said, referring to the Waimarino block sale in 1887.
But the report found "Whanganui Maori suffered most because of their effective exclusion from political institutions".
"Maori continue to be frustrated by their lack of control over matters concerning them, and rightly so," Judge Wainwright said.
The Tribunal called for the Government to address the "deprived state" of many local Maori by entering into a settlement supporting "their aspirations for economic and cultural revitalisation".
It also called for the Government to find ways to give Maori more access to local political forums.
But the report also addressed the issue of the area's name, saying "Tangata whenua should control their own language, and specifically the spelling of names in their rohe (tribal area)".
"They say the word is `Whanganui'," Judge Wainwright said.
"We recommend the Crown overturns a recent decision that authorised both Wanganui and Whanganui as legitimate spellings."
Other recommendations in the report include the return to title of land of the Whanganui National Park to iwi and changes to Public Works land rules.
The Whanganui Land Report will form part of a Treaty settlement negotiation between the Crown and local iwi.
It follows on from the 1999 Whanganui River report, over which a settlement was reached last year.
From between the Whanganui block purchase in the 1840s to 1900, the Crown took control of two-thirds of land controlled by Whanganui Maori.