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Ethnology of Manihiki and Rakahanga

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It was held that each ariki had his hui rangatira (assembly of chiefs). The term hui rangatira is a Rarotongan one which includes the heads of families who are closely related to the ruling ariki. It is probable that the term was adopted from Rarotonga but that the principle involved was in force. Thus, the younger brothers and paternal uncles of the ariki were of high rank and would be closely associated with the official head of the family who held the title. Associated with the ariki were certain chiefs who had to deal with the economic details within the tribes. We have seen that the special office of tuha whenua was given to Huku-potiki in the 6th generation. When the spread of population resulted in family groups or tribes, the heads of the tribes functioned as tuha whenua, but the special title, whakamaru, was evolved. The tuha-whenua title that was instituted in the 6th generation became merged in one of the whakamaru titles that were evolved about the 11th generation.

Whakamaru was the local taohanga (title) given to the heads of tribes. It corresponds to the Rarotongan title, mata(h)iapo, which was not known in the atolls until after the introduction of Christianity. Whakamaru (to give shelter or shade) is thus an expressive term, as the head of the tribe page 55 ought to shelter his people. According to some informants, there were two whakamaru under each of the dual ariki, thus making one representative for each of the four tribes. Others seemed to think that the heads of subtribes were also whakamaru. Some of the subtribes must have been fairly small in number, and it is hardly likely that the term would have been applied to the heads of many subtribes. It was stated that on the death of a whakamaru, his relatives (huanga) elected (mono) his successor. Others held that the whakamaru was elected by the subtribes, as he had power over their lands. It is unfortunate that no tribe was able to give a list of its whakamaru. No check data are available for pedigrees to indicate on what principles the whakamaru was really appointed. It is to be presumed, however, that the whakamaru was appointed by succession in the male line from the leading family in each group. Relatives and heads of subtribes probably met to discuss the pedigree and ratify the election of the person who was entitled by birth to succeed.

The duties of the whakamaru were to act as public custodian over tribal lands, to settle disputes, and to prevent outside interference from another tribe. He had to do with directing the planting of food crops and the protection of the coconut plantations and puraka swamps from theft. He had power also over the redistribution of tribal lands which had to be adjusted to the ebb and flow of population. His decision was final, and not even his ariki could interfere with him in matters that concerned the interior economy of the tribe. His status was as high or even higher than that of the ariki in local matters. When it came to questions which concerned the intervention of the tribal gods, however, the ariki was superior, owing to his special priestly functions. From a modern point of view, the whakamaru in his own tribal district was judge of the native land court, Crown ranger, and director of agriculture. He also had a priestly function. When the whole population crossed from one atoll to the other the whakamaru from the tribes went first to the marae to conduct the appropriate ritual to the god (ka whai i to ratou atua). It was also stated that certain lesser tribal gods were in the keeping of the whakamaru.

The moa was a speaker or messenger between the whakamaru and the ariki. He was a whakamaru appointed by whakamaru. In discussions among the whakamaru he assumed seniority, and his decision was final. The title-holder seemed to be associated particularly with the Whainga-aitu.

The tira was an honorific title applied to the Whakaheo on account of his supernormal powers in dealing with natural phenomena. He was the astronomer who studied the heavens with regard to star signs of the seasons and the advent of winds.

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The papa was a special title held by one Tuteru-te-tahua. He dealt with economic matters with which the ariki, by virtue of his priestly position, was not allowed to concern himself. He thus controlled land and food supplies. He had power with the Whainga-aitu division through his father and power with the Whakaheo division through his mother. He could thus conduct the religious ritual at the Poutu marae at Tauhunu and at the Akaroa marae at Tukou. He probably was a super whakamaru who by birth and ability carried influence with the whakamaru of the four tribes.

It has been pointed out that a woman could not succeed to an ariki title even when she was the first-born child of an ariki by his first wife. This rule held in the Cook Islands, but was broken after the advent of Christianity. In Manihiki and Rakahanga it was observed until the extinction of the titles. The first-born females of the ariki lines, however, had a high status. They received personal names which became established as set names for those born in that line. The eldest daughters of the Whainga-aitu were named Haumata, and the eldest daughters of the Whakaheo were named Takai. Toa's wife was named Tapairu-taki-hetu. The first part of the name, Tapairu, means, in the Cook Islands, a first-born female. This meaning of the word was evidently carried on in the memory of Tapairu's descendants, for the special title, whaka-tapairu, was given to the first-born daughters of the ariki. By receiving special titles of dignity, the first-born daughters were effectively eliminated from any possibility of succeeding to the male ariki title, “Kare te wahine i te taohanga ariki, ka noho ratou i te taohanga whaka-tapairu.” (Women could not occupy the ariki title, they remained with the title of whakatapairu.) The first-born daughter of the Whainga-aitu was thus named Haumata-whakatapairu and that of the Whakaheo, Takai-whaka-tapairu. The prefix whaka is causative and carries the idea that the bearers of the titles had been made tapairu or first-born.

The whakatapairu had certain privileges and performed certain functions connected with the title. Thus, after the whakamaru chiefs had visited the marae on landing at one of the atolls, they returned to the canoes. The whakatapairu then visited the marae in turn to perform their duties, and only after that could the people leave the beach and explore the land. The details of what they did on the marae are not clear.

The Takai-whakatapairu had special powers to calm the sea. If the sea was rough during a bad season when food was low, the whakatapairu went out to the reef and beat upon the waters of the lagoon and the reef channel with a coconut leaf. At the same time she recited a chant (pehe). Her action caused the seas to subside and enabled the men to go fishing. Her power (mana) was derived from her position as direct representative of the Whakaheo who possessed the tira, or power over natural phenomena.