The traditional Rongomatane Ariki of Enuamanu (Atiu) traces back many centuries to the several discoverers and acclaimed leaders of the island, including Mariri-Tutu-a-Manu, Karika Taraape, Tangiia-Nui, Akaina, Te Akaapuka, Te Rua-a-utu, and Ngakaara Rongomatane, to name a few.
It came to be that before the arrival of Christianity in 1821, following internal battles amongst the clans, seven arduous and industrious Mataiapo-Tutara were coronated (given the crown of royalty) by one of the supreme warriors of Kurukava called Tearai-Toa, in an effort to return peace and order to the divisive clans of Atiu. Of the seven, three were appointed to the hereditary “Ariki” titles to rule over the island.
One of the three, Tau’u-o-te-Rangi Mataiapo Tutara, was vested the title Rongomatane Ariki to reign over the tribe Ngati Paruarangi, normally associated but not exclusively with the Tapere of Ngati-Tangiia, today referred to as Tengatangi, alias, Taturoanui.
From Te-Rua-a-utu heralded the Poona line that succeeded the renowned Ngakaara Rongomatane, followed by Mana Rongomatane, to Poona Rua. In 1919 Kea Rongomatane was invested the title followed by his first born, Mataio.
Subsequent to Mataio Rongomatane, was his younger brother, Maka Kea Rongomatane. After Maka the title returned to the senior line. Te-tupu, Mataio Kea’s first-born then took over the reign of the Rongomatane title.
On February 23, 1972, Ada Teau-Purepure Te Tupu’s daughter was invested as the new Ariki of Ngati Paruarangi – a title she held for just over 45 years. Ngati Paruarangi as a tribe was spread from Atiu throughout Nga-pu-toru.
Ada, as she was commonly referred to, was born on the island on August 20, 1948. Her father Te Tupu, a war veteran, fell for this beautiful maiden from the Marama clan of Ngati Karika in Takuvaine. Ada’s upbringing had to fit in with her parent’s travels between Atiu and Rarotonga and the impractical boat schedules during those times.
Essentially she spent more time on Rarotonga than Atiu during her early childhood. Yet Te Tupu and several keen ‘”pa-metua” helped in one form or another to remind Ada of the lifelong role that became her ultimate destiny and to groom her for it.
While Te Tupu Rongomatane, Mataio Parua and Ada Ngamaru were serving as alternative members in the Legislative Council/Assembly, Ada Teau-purepure was said to be the “pet” company of the Ui Ariki of Atiu to those institutions. By the time the House of Ariki was founded by the Henry government in 1966, Ada was already a familiar face amongst the titular traditional leaders of the nation. Tom Marsters, the present Queen’s Representative is the last surviving figure of that historical founding.
In her role as a member of the House of Ariki of the Cook Islands, Ada Rongomatane Ariki was elected on several occasions as president, now referred to as the Kaumaiti Nui, of the House.
Living on Atiu and serving the office in Rarotonga was draining and very stressful on family and tribal matters. Still she persisted and also served as Kaumaiti Iti in the House of Ariki.
The Bruce Mita saga haunted Ada for a time, but like her predecessors, Ada renewed her efforts and continued to serve the House diligently. Ada was very passionate in supporting the Marae Moana, Maori customs, the raui and the conservation of our environment.
She continued to demonstrate her leaderships through the Atiu Island Trust, an incorporated body of the original “seven Mataiapo Tutara,” invested with the responsibility to oversee the general interests and wellbeing of the Atiu people.
The community centres of the Atiu people, the “Atiu Nui Maruarua” in Atiu, Patutoa, Rarotonga, New Zealand and Australia were initiatives enhanced by the Trustees of Atiu.
Following her schooling, Ada was employed in several jobs, including serving as an officer of the Philatelic Bureau, the General Post Office and the Atiu Post Office.
Ada loved being involved in women’s affairs. Up to her last days, she served as the Patron of the Cook Islands National Council of Women. In her village she urged the renovation of the Tengatangi meeting house and the “Are Tangika”.
Ada is married to Akere Manava Nichols of Araura Enua and is survived by two children and three grandchildren.
Ada Te-Au-Purepure Rongomatane Ariki’s humble manner, her restraint, and her all-out willingness to serve in any capacity. But above all, her kind and caring love for her people will dearly be missed by her family, friends, the people of Atiu, Nga-pu-toru, and all her acquaintances.
Aere ra e taku Ariki Vaine. Ei Paradaiso tatou Aravei ei!
Farewell my Queen!