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The Coming of the Maori

Rank and Leadership

Rank and Leadership

Leadership in home and foreign affairs was exercised by males, and primogeniture in the male line was the deciding factor in succession to chiefly rank. The numerous tribal genealogies record chiefly descent from the leaders of the crews of the voyaging canoes which landed in this country. Though some of the canoe leaders may have been minor chiefs in their homeland, their position at the head of the local lineages gave them a rank and prestige which may have been partly due to the later successful achievements of their descendants. Among the rangatira class, which comprised the aristocracy, extreme deference was paid to the seniority involved in tuakana birth. The first-born son (matamua) of a chiefly first settler succeeded his father in rank and power and he was tuakana not only to his brothers but also to the families of his father's younger brothers. His first son, in turn, inherited his rank and seniority with regard to the families of his generation. All going well, this seniority and chieftainship was transmitted through succeeding generations, and when tribes and sub-tribes were developed, the senior son of the senior family exercised authority over a large number of people. The senior chief was a rangatira, but his position of seniority to all others received the special term of ariki.

The term ariki is widely spread throughout Polynesia, but the meaning of the term has undergone change in some groups. Thus in Hawaii and Samoa, [unclear: ali'i] (dialectal form of ariki) has come to include lesser chiefs and the term has acquired a diminished value equivalent to that of the Maori rangatira. Hence in those islands, qualifying terms were used or new terms were coined to distinguish the higher ranking [unclear: ali'i] from the lesser [unclear: ali'i]. In Hawaii, the highest ranking [unclear: ali'i], who were equivalent to the Maori ariki, were termed [unclear: ali'i nui] and [unclear: ali'i aimoku]; and the lesser chiefs, who would correspond to the Maori rangatira, were graded into [unclear: ali'i] with various descriptive adjectives. In Samoa, special titles were created, titular terms coined for the high-ranking senior positions, and [unclear: ali'i] became a general term corresponding to the Maori rangatira.

In central Polynesia, the additional term mataiapo was applied to a first-born son and became a title which could also be granted to later appointments in rank. The term ariki (Tahiti [unclear: ari'i]) also became a title which was reserved to a few of the original senior families. Special terms were also applied to these ariki positions. In the Cook Islands, the name of the first holder became the title name, such as Makea, and each holder used his personal name with the title. Thus when Tinirau succeeded to page 344the Makea title, he became Makea Tinirau to distinguish him from previous holders of the Makea title.

In the Cook Islands, the term rangatira was present as a junior title lower than the mataiapo. Both titles were conferred by the ariki of a district and were subsequently inherited by seniority in the family line. In the Society Islands, the equivalent term of ráatira diminished in prestige and it was applied to landholders, some of whom may have received gifts of land originally for services rendered to the governing chief and not necessarily through chiefly descent.

From a comparative study, it is evident that the terms ariki and rangatira as well as succession by seniority were introduced from central Polynesia. The Maori, however, appear to have adhered more closely to the original meaning of the chiefly terms. A rangatira was such by reason of birth and the conferring of titles was never contemplated. Where tribal lands were used by all, there was no landholding class. The term ariki could be used within a family as a descriptive term for the eldest son but as a distinctive title, it was reserved for the first-born son of the senior family in the tribe. The lineage of a person was termed aho (line), and the senior line was termed the aho ariki of that tribe. As Best (16, vol. 1, p. 345) has pointed out, there could be no higher rank than ariki and the terms ihorei, whatukura, and tumu-whakarae, were honorific terms which did not constitute specific titles. The [unclear: ariki's] personal name was sufficient title in Maori society, and the elaborate installation ceremonies of central Polynesia were not present in New Zealand.

An unbroken line of male first-borns was rare. The first-born was sometimes a female and, though she could not succeed to the active leadership of the tribe, she was treated with the greatest respect as a female ariki. Among the Waikato tribes, the female ariki was termed an ariki tapairu. In the Cook Islands, the term tapairu, the feminine of the masculine term mataiapo, was applied to a female first-born and thus tapairu is evidently a carry-over from central Polynesia. The Ngati Kahungunu applied the term mareikura to first-born females of senior families, and, according to Best (16, vol. 1, p. 348), they possessed the privilege of adorning their faces with marks in pukepoto blue clay which were termed tuhi mareikura. They were treated with the greatest respect and it was probably this attitude which led the Ngati Kahungunu to allow women of high rank to make public speeches, a procedure absolutely forbidden by other tribes. Women of high rank were also alluded to by the general term wahine ariki (female ariki) and kahurangi, a term also applied to possessions of the greatest value. In rare instances, a female ariki, such as the famous Hinematioro of Ngati Porou, was raised to queenly pomp and power by her people.

When the first-born happened to be a female, the functioning position page 345of ariki passed to the first-born male child. It was probably this desire to retain leadership by seniority in the male line which led to the restriction of the seniority term of tuakana to members of the same sex. The use of the term gave expression to what actually functioned in the society, and priority of female birth was controlled by the fact that she could not function as tuakana to her younger brother.

The preclusion of females from exercising the privileges of seniority is illustrated by the custom of sounding a shell trumpet to announce the birth of a first-born son. When it was known that the high chief's wife was nearing her confinement, the people grew interested at the prospects of a future leader. The consuming desire of the prospective parents was for a male child. If the child was a male, the trumpet was sounded long and loud to announce that the wish of the parents and the people had been realized. If the child was a female, the trumpet remained silent. In my own tribe of Ngati Mutunga, our eponymous ancestor, Mutunga, married a first-born woman named Te Rerehua. When Te Rerehua's younger brother Te Hihiotu was born, the shell trumpet was sounded. In recent years, a descendant of Te Hihiotu claimed that his ancestor was the first-born of the family, because the shell trumpet had been sounded at his birth. However, traditional history is very definite that Te Rerehua was the first-born of the family and Te Hihiotu, the first-born male was second in the family.

In the family of the late Te Heuheu Tukino of Tokaanu, the first-born was a female; but the mother, desirous of announcing her first-born, ordered the trumpet to be sounded. The order was obeyed. Later, a male child was born but the trumpet had already been blown. Hence the boy was named Tureiti which was the Maori approximation of Too-late. He was too late for the trumpet call but he inherited his father's rank and leadership just the same. Later his first name was changed to the family name of Te Heuheu Tukino.

Though a first-born male could not be deprived of his seniority of birth, he was sometimes deprived of his leadership through physical or mental incapacity which prevented him from carrying out the duties of his position. Poor leadership lowered the prestige of the tribe and the people turned to a younger brother to supply the energy and administrative ability which his senior brother lacked. The wise son of a weak ariki could regain leadership, for if he displayed ability, his uncles, cousins, and the people would recognize and respect his seniority. The tuakana is always the tuakana, though some may fall by the wayside.