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Land Tenure in the Cook Islands

The extended family (uanga)

The extended family (uanga)

The extended family was a component part of the minor lineage and was based on the same structural principles. It was a group of persons who traced their descent from a common progenitor, sometimes still living, but often deceased a generation or more ago. This progenitor was refered to as the metua (elder) and all those persons descended from him were known as ‘te uanga o mea’ - ‘the descendants of so-and-so’ (the elder concerned). The core of the uanga was the basic residential unit - the household (kainga tangata). Each household usually contained three or even four generations of people, and it was here that the primary and permissive members of the uanga lived. Leadership of the household and of the uanga it represented lay with its elder (also known as metua) who was ideally the senior (but not necessarily the eldest) resident male. Each ariki, mataiapo, komono and rangatira was metua to his own household.