Our history shows that in the 19th century epidemics of viral illnesses almost made the Cook Islanders extinct The early missionaries estimated the population of Rarotonga at between 6000 to 7000. The impact of contact with the wider world was devastating. Western diseases spread like bushfires through the islanders and their numbers reduced dramatically during the mid-19th century to probably fewer than 2000.The Missionaries in the mid 19th century considered that the Maori race was doomed to extinction. The London Missionary Society stated ….” It is our job to prepare the people for heaven.”
There is a mass grave under Muri football field bearing witness to this devastation, so we have a bad history regarding Western diseases.
In recent times -since 2019 – I have done everything I can to encourage our Government to seek ways to keep the Covid-19 virus out of our country, to avoid a mass outbreak that could devastate our population as happened in the mid 1800’s. So far, we have been successful.
In 1965 the Cook Islands became self governing in free association with New Zealand. We have a Westminster style parliamentary democracy based on the British model, with elections for M.Ps every four years.
Self Government in 1965 brought a limited recognition of Ariki with the creation of the House of Ariki in 1967 by the father of our nation Sir Albert Henry. This body was instituted to give Ariki a voice, and sits once a year to consider matters pertaining to the welfare of the people of the Cook Islands, and such matters that are referred to it by Central Government. I participate in this body. My other main Governmental role is as an ex officio member of the Aitutaki Island Council, which is our local Government, and which meets when required. My role is to advise and support them in their decision making process.
My place as an Ariki in these troubling modern times is primarily as a visible symbol of our real Maori core identity, and to counsel my people in ways which will enable them to lead a better life. It is important that I am seen to set a good example in my own life, to foster peace and harmony, and to lobby our Members of Parliament and Cabinet Ministers on matters which affect us.
I support and attend the Cook Islands Christian Church (the old London Missionary Society Church), as this was the first church accepted by the Ariki on Aitutaki, but my duty is to support all the churches, as my people are from all the different denominations.
Sometimes I am called upon to make or support decisions which are unpopular with some factions, or to support initiatives which clash with the fixed ideas of certain groups. I’ve always tried very hard to put the overall wellbeing of the island and its people first and it is this which guides me despite sometimes suffering criticism. In many ways being an Ariki is a lonely place to be, but I stand firm on my resolve to try my very best to choose the right path for the island.
Politicians come and go, Governments change, Island Councils get re-elected, but an Ariki is always there for the people, unchanging and resolute — a cultural icon from the many hundreds of years before — a visible link with our past and an anchor for our ship in all seas and weather. The church bells ring in the village at twilight, calling the people to evening prayer. God has not changed — only the words are different………..
“I shall not be moved, I shall not be moved,
For my beauty comes from heaven above,
0 Rongo — Bless Thy Chiefs.”
Traditional Chant — Aitutaki
Phone: (682) 31-058
Manarangi Tutai Ariki