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Land Tenure in the Cook Islands

Takitumu: the tribe of Tangiia

Takitumu: the tribe of Tangiia

Takitumu was the name of Tangiia's canoe and this name was applied both to the tribe which traces its descent from men who travelled to Rarotonga in that canoe, and to the district which they occupy. Though he was from a chiefly family, Tangiia was not himself a man of high rank. No tradition records his relationship to other members of his party, though some refer to them vaguely as his kopu tangata (cognatic kinsmen). The only exceptions to this generalization are Pa and Tinomana. Pa was adopted by Tangiia, but was a son of the renowned Tahitian chief Iro. Being of such high rank, Pa was later made titular head of the Tangiia tribe and it is through him that the Pa Ariki line of high chiefs trace their descent. Tinomana, of whom more details will be given later, was the son of Tangiia.

The other line of high chiefs of the Takitumu tribe today is that of Kainuku Ariki. The Kainuku people trace their descent from those early settlers who were living on the island at the time of Tangiia's arrival and who formed an alliance with Tangiia's people. Whether or not this union was preceded by conflict or threat of conflict is not known though the resident party were given only a minority role in the affairs of the group.1

1 Te Aia says that Tangiia was on friendly terms with the people already established on the island, ‘and made them his own people, and he assumed to himself and his children the position of ariki over all the mataiapo of Tongaiti… so that he had everyone under him, including his own mataiapo’. (Tongaiti is the name frequently given to the party in occupation of the land at the time of Tangiia's arrival.) - Te Aia, JPS 2:275. It will be noted, however, that the leaders of the Tongaiti party were given the status of mataiapo (i.e. semi-independent chiefs), though of the total number of these titles created the Tongaiti received only a small proportion.

page 18

Though closely linked with the Tangiia people by marriage, Kainuku's party has retained its separate lands and separate identity. At the time of arrival of the missionaries, and apparently for some time before, Pa and Kainuku were joint chiefs of the tribe. They remain so to this day. In parochial affairs Pa generally takes responsibility for the eastern section, and Kainuku the southern section. Pa's people are the more numerous, however, and in matters concerning the whole tribe Pa often acts as sole spokesman. Despite this tendency for Pa to be deferred to as the more influential, both are high chiefs of the same rank.1

Some or all of Tangiia's men were elevated to the rank of mataiapo (chief) and each was allotted a block of land running from the mountain to the coast. These blocks, known as tapere, are the most important land divisions on the island. Each mataiapo settled with his family on the tapere lands and formed the nucleus of a new settlement.2 The descent group which derived from each of these original chiefs became the focus of land-holding within the tapere. While owing allegiance to one or other of the high chiefs, the mataiapo enjoyed a considerable degree of independence.

While tradition states that this land division occurred shortly after Tangiia's arrival, it seems unlikely that each of the men could have established a viable unit so soon. It

1 Kainuku is today (and has been for many generations past) an ariki title, but I can find no reference to its being of this status in Tangiia's time.

2 Nicholas (translator), JPS 1:23.

page 19 is more probable, therefore, that this phase did not occur until after the new arrivals had settled down and begun to expand in numbers, for all are said to have come in one canoe. They may have chosen wives from the earlier inhabitants or, alternatively, more migrants could have been brought from Raiatea, for some traditions record return visits to that island.

Each mataiapo had his own marae,1 which was located within the tapere near the place of settlement. By the time of first European contact some mataiapo had two or three marae,2 but it is assumed that this was the result of later developments. Each high priest (ta'unga) likewise had his marae and also a tapere of land for, in his non-priestly functions, his role was the same as that of a mataiapo.

Early in the period of settlement the title of komono was created, one holder being appointed by each mataiapo as his spokesman and deputy. Komono (which may be translated literally as ‘deputy’) probably began as the name given to the person who was next in seniority to the mataiapo, but in time it became an hereditary title under the mataiapo.3 Also below the mataiapo in the rank hierarchy were the rangatira, and though it is not clear just at what stage this title began to be bestowed, it appears in the tradition later than that of komono. By the time of first European contact each ariki had up to a dozen or more rangatira, and most mataiapo had several. The original rangatira are said to have been the younger brothers of the early ariki and

1 A sacred ground enclosed by low stone walls in which ceremonies of a religious nature took place.

2 Maretu, MS 33–59.

3 One account states that komono were appointed at the same time as the mataiapo, but this is the only tradition which mentions komono at that early date. - Nicholas, JPS 1:23.

page 20 mataiapo, and were given this title when they established separate units within the tapere.1

1 Savage, ‘Dictionary of the Rarotongan Language’. The creation of four rangatira titles in Avarua by promotion of the younger brothers of the ariki is described in MB 1:319 NLC. This instance would have occurred circa 1790.