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Descendants reunite across the Pacific

Saturday 24 February 2024 | Written by Melina Etches | Published in Features, Memory Lane


Descendants reunite across the Pacific
The children of the late Robert Aio and Noora Taripo – The Tikivaine Charles Brown line of Geore Outher Brown and Rakiki Tipoki. From left: John, Mereana, Kurai, Elizabeth, Robert, William, Norman. (Absent - Peter, Philip in Australia and the late James). CURLY TARIPO/24022326

Over 300 descendants from Aotearoa New Zealand, Australia, Tahiti, Marquesas, Rarotonga, and Mangaia participated in the George Outher Brown Reunion this week at Te Are Kariori National Auditorium.

George Outher Brown, a Scotsman, had two wives. His first was Emma Layton from Nuku Hiva, Marquesas, with whom he had four children. He then sailed onto Rarotonga, followed by Mangaia, where he met and married Rakiki Tipoki and had 14 children.

In 2017, Father Joseph Taupotini from Nuku Hiva, Marquesas, a descendant of George Outher Brown and Emma Layton, came to Rarotonga to discover and connect with his Cook Islands family.

Father Joseph has dedicated many years to researching his great-grandfather, George Outher Brown, and came to Rarotonga to find his family and connect. His grandfather was the eldest child of George Brown and Emma Layton, and his mother is a granddaughter.

“My mother insisted that I come to Rarotonga in 2017 to do more research into her family, her Brown family,” said Father Joseph.

“My family wanted to know why George Outher Brown left Tahiti and did not return and who he was.”

During his first visit to Rarotonga, he also took the opportunity to fly to Mangaia to conduct more research.

Father Joseph’s visit back then sparked interest and the desire for the family to have a reunion.

He has returned with 15 members of his family to be part of the 2024 George Outher Brown Reunion.

The hard-working reunion committee members who spearheaded the reunion plans are co-chairs Karla Eggelton and William Taripo, co-secretaries Elizabeth Tou and Lysia Stringer, and treasurer Poko Marona.

Eggelton said initially they had planned the reunion for 2021, however, this was postponed due to the pandemic and then rescheduled to November 2023. Unfortunately, last year’s dates clashed with the 52nd Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) Leaders Meeting, so the dates had to be altered again and moved a second time to February 2024.

The reunion kicked off on Wednesday morning at Te Are Kariori. On Thursday morning, the Marquesan family opened the day’s activities with their traditional welcome for Prime Minister Mark Brown, who is also a member of their tribe. While welcoming Brown and Eggelton, who is also a descendant, they were required to step gently in between people lying down in the form of a pathway before being presented with gifts.

Each “line” set up their booths displaying a presentation of photographs and outlines of their respective genealogy.

William Taripo said there had been a lot of planning and adjustments to get their reunion up and running.

“Reunions are important for us to know who are our family, and it’s for the future of our children to know their aunties, uncles and cousins, to know who they are related to – that’s the main thing,” said Taripo.

“Our Pa Metua are passing away, we are all reconnecting now, it’s our turn to keep things going.”

The reunion programme spanned over 2.5 days, featuring an official opening, island night, family exhibition, genealogy/storytelling, a beach day on Motu Koromiri, and culminating in a finale at The Islander Hotel.

Eggelton said, based on the success of this reunion, it is expected that the next reunion will most likely be held in the end of 2027 or early 2028, either in Papeete or the Marquesas.

The executive committee were supported by line representatives: Father Joseph, Nae Williams, Ora Paio, Hinano Ellingham, Sheeny Teariki, Madeleine Fariu, Margret Numanga, Iriti Maoate, Nicole Buillard, Shirley Napa, Sandi Brown, Liana Nicholas, and Shine Piri.