New Caledonia's president, Harold Martin, says a referendum should be held to determine the territory's name.
Mr Martin made the suggestion in an interview with the local daily newspaper following an uproar over a recent reference to the territory as Kanaky.
He says such a choice should be made before 2014 when the Noumea Accord on greater autonomy enters its final phase with a possible independence referendum.
Last month, the French overseas territories minister, Victorin Lurel, spoke about New Caledonia Kanaky after meeting a pro-independence provincial president in Paris.
The description outraged anti-independence politicians.
The Rassemblement-UMP described this as a provocation, Mr Martin's Future Together Party said it was scandalous while the Caledonia Together Party said the minister trampled on New Caledonia's sovereignty.
Mr Lurel says his use of the name Kanaky is a storm in a teacup, adding that the Noumea Accord speaks of the Kanak identity.