Book to Boost Traditional Cook Islands Culture and Language

The Cook Islands News recently reported that a three day workshop had been organised at the University of the South Pacific to gather much needed information from members of the House of Ariki and invited experts on how to put cultural history and knowledge into written form.The main goal is to publish a book that highlights the history of the country’s traditional leaders and looking at how far the country has come.

Tupuna Rakanui who is a clerk at the House of Ariki said, “This is the first time we have managed to bring in all these experts who have knowledge in Cook Islands history and the involvement of the traditional leaders, the Ariki, the tribes and the development of the nation in general.” The workshop had been very encouraging with an “overwhelming” amount of information gathered. The book will significantly benefit the people of the Cook Islands and more importantly, its future generations. Rakanui continues, “We need to focus on the history of our traditional leaders and where they came from. There are lot of stories about the skills of our forefathers in conquering our oceans.”

The House of Ariki is a parliamentary body in the Cook Islands. It was established in 1967 shortly after self-government. You might have seen the word, “ariki” used in memoirs or notes written by explorers such as, Captain Cook, when they navigated Polynesia. An ariki was (and still is) a member of a hereditary chiefly or noble rank in Polynesia. The word has a slightly different pronunciation throughout Polynesia. In Tahiti, for example, it is pronounced, ari’i, or in Hawaii, aliʻi. Nevertheless, in the Cook Islands each island was ruled by a number of ariki (high chiefs), and beneath each ariki in the social hierarchy were a number of minor chiefs that were of noble rank as well. Today, the House of Ariki has very limited power, but they are full of dignity and respect. Titles are passed down through the family, and some of the ancient ceremonies and traditions are still practiced.


Ariki Day, 2012, Rarotonga, Cook Islands- Courtesy of

 Anyway, getting back to the book- Rakanui says the information they have gathered so far is enough to compile the first of many volumes they plan to put together. She said, “Today the history is fragmented, it’s all over the place and a lot of those histories cannot be accessed by our people. Most of them don’t even know how to access them. Once we put this project together, it should be readily available to members of the community at our schools, libraries or even to people who come to the House of Ariki.”

The publication will be available in the various Cook Islands Maori dialects to encourage younger people to learn about their language and history.


About islandculturearchivalsupport

Island Culture Archival Support (ICAS) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation of records pertaining to the cultural identity of island peoples in Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia whose national and public archives, libraries, cultural centers, and business organizations are underprivileged, underfunded, and understaffed. The specific purpose for which this nonprofit corporation was formed is to support the needs of these South Pacific cultural heritage institutions by helping to preserve and make accessible records created for business, accountability or cultural purposes. The organization will endeavor to add value by providing resources or volunteers to advise, train, and work among island residents to support their efforts in building their future and preserving their collective memory through the use of modern archival techniques.
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