Are Taunga of Araura – ‘We invest our Ariki in our traditional procedures’

Saturday 10 April 2021 | Written by Melina Etches | Published in Features, Weekend

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Are Taunga of Araura – ‘We invest our Ariki in our traditional procedures’
Teao Tangaroa being invested with the Tamatoa Ariki title on Thursday in Aitutaki. MELINA ETCHES/21040938

The investiture of the second Tamatoa Ariki was held last week, just over a month after Taraota Tom was invested with the title on the island of Aitutaki. House of Ariki, the parliamentary body composed of Cook Islands high chiefs, refused to attend both investitures because of the "ongoing dispute over the title". But the sub chiefs backing the newly-crowned Tamatoa Ariki Teao Tangaroa say they will decide the legitimate holder.

The island of Aitutaki/Araura supported and celebrated the investiture of Teao Tangaroa as Tamatoa Ariki on Thursday April 8.

The investiture ran smoothly and there were no visible protestors.

Each island and/or tribe of the Cook Islands has its own customary procedures for the selection process and endorsement of an Ariki.

Battles for the right to hold such esteemed titles have occurred in the past, and in the modern day some disputes have ended up in court.

For Aitutaki, it is the Are Taunga or traditional high priests who decide whether to accept or deny a “Kura”, an invitation by a tribe for their nomination or selection of their Ariki to be, explained Mataiapo Ara-ki-te-ra, Retire Puapii.

“Once the Are Taunga agree or accept a ‘Kura’, they then prepare the whole island and let everyone know about the impending coronation.”

Te Toa Kaora, the highest traditional priest of the island, John Purua, says the Tamatoa Ariki investiture held on Thursday was one of the biggest the island has seen for some time.

The House of Ariki of declined the invitation to attend the ceremony because of the dispute over the title. The parliamentary body composed of Cook Islands high chiefs say they will wait for court’s decision on the matter.

Te Toa Kaora was unfazed.

“They (House of Ariki) are playing favouritism games because they refuse to accept what we had decided. They refuse to listen to what the majority of the whole island has accepted, or to our traditional procedures.”


Taraota Tom invested with the Tamatoa Ariki title on the island of Aitutaki. 21022510.

“During the process of selecting Tamatoa Ariki, Teao Tangaroa was the person appointed by the kopu Ariki, the vaka Mataiapo and the whole village.

“So they brought their Kura up to the Are Taunga. On our island, once the Are Taunga accepts the Kura, the process will continue.”

But if the parties bring their Kura and the Are Taunga does not accept, Te Toa Kaora says they can’t continue the process because the whole island won’t accept it.

“I hear that we – our Aronga mana – may start to stop our Ui Ariki from joining the House of Ariki; this is the third time they have done this to us in Araura. They are not being fair – then maybe they’ll think again about how they disregard our investiture processes.

“They are trying to change our ways to suit them, it’s not right. This ceremony is one of our dreams Te Ara-ki-te-Ra Mataiapo come true.

“They need to leave our Aitutaki culture and traditions to us, and don’t get involved. Now you see there are more than one person invested with titles not just here but on other islands. It’s not for the House of Ariki or the courts to decide on who takes on the title, we have our traditional cultural practises for an Ariki’s investiture and we and the whole island support and stand by it.”

Ara-ki-te-Ra Mataiapo, Retire Puapii says they believe the House of Ariki should listen to the mataiapo on who they have chosen to take on an ariki title. “They should listen to us, not others.”


Tamatoa Ariki Teao Tangaroa getting ready for the investiture ceremony. MELINA ETCHES/21040933

“It is so powerful, when it is done the traditional way and the people of the island will support it as you just saw on Thursday.

“Because once the Are Taunga decides that’s it, that is the final decision – there is no other decision.”

Before the actual investiture day, there’s the preparation for the Ariki’s garments, the shoes, crown etc. Once the Are Taunga agree, then they prepare the whole island and let them know of the impending coronation a year earlier.


The Ariki at the investiture of Teao Tangaroa as Tamatoa Ariki on Thursday, MELINA ETCHES/21040943

Eighteen mataiapo for the island were endorsed soon after the Tamatoa Ariki investiture.

Te Au Mataiapo o Araura Enua te akauruuruia i te ra akamarokuraanga o Tamatoa Ariki April 2021, the following are the Mataiapo’s for the island of Aitutaki.

Te Putokotoko o Tamatoa Ariki - Kiikoro- i te Maru o te Ao: Arerau Maao Jnr.

Matakeinanga Te-Upoko-Enua – (Amuri): Tai Maa’ua’u MAtaiapo – Grey Turia, TEpori-A-Nuku Mataiapo – Rata Vaireka, Taivero Mataiapo – Matangaro Isamaela, Maao Te Vae Mataiapo – Tupuna Moeroa Vaireka, Ara-ki-te-Ra Mataiapo – Retire Puaipii, Uia Mataiapo – Richard Tuakana. Matakainanga Te Reureu o te Mata o Teerui: Tinorei MAtaiapo – Ake Pumati, Marouna Mataiapo – Tunui Mati. Matakainanga Titi-ai-tonga (Tautu) Uitariro Mataiapo – Natua Ruarangi. Matakainanga Vai-Paepae-o-Pau (Vaipae) Teangi Mataiapo – Margaret Ioane Uri. Matakeinanga Uri-uri-a-Punga Are Keri Ava (Ureia): Kaitao Mataiapo – Teokotai Gardiner, Mama- Akaruru Ariki-Ki-Te-Avarua Mataiapo – Natini Samuel Jnr, Tau’ono Mataiapo – Kairangi Paora, Te’ata Mataiapo – Bob Maoate, Teariki Maurangi Mataiapo – Lynette Ngaro, Te-Rangi-o-Tangaroa Mataiapo – Kauariki Henry, Kii-Ngati Mataiapo – Joe Katangi. Matakeinanga o Ru-Tanga-o-te-Toa (Arutanga): Taonga Mataiapo – Tangata kia Akauruuruia, Rimaroa Mataiapo – Makiroa Tuapou, Puturu Mataiapo – Gideon Purua, Tumataara Mataiapo – Michael Henry, Rua Mataiapo – Ana Jessie-Pareanga.

NOTE: In February Taraota Tom – Tamatoa Taraota Ariki held an investiture for the same title. Cook Islands News understands he has filed an application in court to decide the legitimate holder of the prestigious title.