An Ariki ‘Ariki (Easter Island
Easter Island
Easter Island is a Polynesian island in the southeastern Pacific Ocean, at the southeasternmost point of the Polynesian triangle. A special territory of Chile that was annexed in 1888, Easter Island is famous for its 887 extant monumental statues, called moai, created by the early Rapanui people...

), Aliki (Tokelau
Tokelau is a territory of New Zealand in the South Pacific Ocean that consists of three tropical coral atolls with a combined land area of 10 km2 and a population of approximately 1,400...

, Tuvalu
Tuvalu , formerly known as the Ellice Islands, is a Polynesian island nation located in the Pacific Ocean, midway between Hawaii and Australia. Its nearest neighbours are Kiribati, Nauru, Samoa and Fiji. It comprises four reef islands and five true atolls...

), Ali‘i (Samoa
Samoa , officially the Independent State of Samoa, formerly known as Western Samoa is a country encompassing the western part of the Samoan Islands in the South Pacific Ocean. It became independent from New Zealand in 1962. The two main islands of Samoa are Upolu and one of the biggest islands in...

, Hawai‘i
Hawaii is the newest of the 50 U.S. states , and is the only U.S. state made up entirely of islands. It is the northernmost island group in Polynesia, occupying most of an archipelago in the central Pacific Ocean, southwest of the continental United States, southeast of Japan, and northeast of...

), Ari'i (Society Islands
Society Islands
The Society Islands are a group of islands in the South Pacific Ocean. They are politically part of French Polynesia. The archipelago is generally believed to have been named by Captain James Cook in honor of the Royal Society, the sponsor of the first British scientific survey of the islands;...

, Tahiti
Tahiti is the largest island in the Windward group of French Polynesia, located in the archipelago of the Society Islands in the southern Pacific Ocean. It is the economic, cultural and political centre of French Polynesia. The island was formed from volcanic activity and is high and mountainous...

) or ‘Eiki (Tonga
Tonga, officially the Kingdom of Tonga , is a state and an archipelago in the South Pacific Ocean, comprising 176 islands scattered over of ocean in the South Pacific...

) is or was a member of a hereditary chiefly or noble rank in Polynesia
Polynesia is a subregion of Oceania, made up of over 1,000 islands scattered over the central and southern Pacific Ocean. The indigenous people who inhabit the islands of Polynesia are termed Polynesians and they share many similar traits including language, culture and beliefs...


Aotearoa (New Zealand) Ariki

Political leadership or governance in Māori society has traditionally come from two different groups of people — the Ariki and the Rangatira
Rangatira are the hereditary Māori leaders of hapū, and were described by ethnologists such as Elsdon Best as chieftains . Ideally, rangatira were people of great practical wisdom who held authority on behalf of the tribe and maintained boundaries between a tribe's land and that of other tribes...

. The Ariki are the "persons of the highest rank and seniority" (p. 58). As the "high-ranking first-born children of first-born children", Ariki inherit their positions from their forebears (p. 142). In particular, their "supreme rank [comes] from the conjunction of a number of senior descent lines from founding ancestors, and ultimately from the gods" (p. 205). Although most Ariki in the past have been male, women, like Te Atairangikaahu
Te Atairangikaahu
Dame Te Atairangikaahu, ONZ, DBE, OStJ was the Māori queen for 40 years, the longest reign of any Māori monarch. Her full name and title was Te Arikinui Te Atairangikaahu...

, have "brought their own qualities to bear on leadership ... [with] the expectations of them ... [being] the same as for men" (p. 200) .

Ariki do not operate in simple hierarchical orgranisations
Hierarchical organization
A hierarchical organization is an organizational structure where every entity in the organization, except one, is subordinate to a single other entity. This arrangement is a form of a hierarchy. In an organization, the hierarchy usually consists of a singular/group of power at the top with...

; despite what "government officers were inclined to believe", Ariki have never been "the apex of a structured hierarchy of institutionalised tribal authority" (p. 264). Many positions overlap with Ariki holding multiple roles, including "head of an iwi
In New Zealand society, iwi form the largest everyday social units in Māori culture. The word iwi means "'peoples' or 'nations'. In "the work of European writers which treat iwi and hapū as parts of a hierarchical structure", it has been used to mean "tribe" , or confederation of tribes,...

, the rangatira of a hapu
A hapū is sometimes described as "the basic political unit within Maori society".A named division of a Māori iwi , membership is determined by genealogical descent; a hapū is made up of a number of whānau groups. Generally hapū range in size from 150-200 although there is no upper limit...

 and the kaumatua
Kaumātua are respected tribal elders of either gender in a Māori community who have been involved with their whānau for a number of years. They are appointed by their people who believe the chosen elders have the capacity to teach and guide both current and future generations...

 of a whanau
Whānau , is a Māori-language word for extended family, now increasingly entering New Zealand English, particularly in official publications.In Māori society, the whānau is also a political unit, below the level of hapū and iwi, and the word itself also has other meanings: as a verb meaning to give...

" (p. 197). Similarly, in times past, "a tohunga
In the culture of the Māori of New Zealand, a tohunga is an expert practitioner of any skill or art, religious or otherwise. Tohunga may include expert priests, healers, navigators, carvers, builders, teachers and advisors. The equivalent term in Hawaiian culture is kahuna...

 may have also been the head of a whanau but quite often was also a rangatira and an ariki" (p. 197).

Cook Islands Ariki

Each island in the Cook Islands
Cook Islands
The Cook Islands is a self-governing parliamentary democracy in the South Pacific Ocean in free association with New Zealand...

 was ruled by a number of ariki (high chiefs), Rarotonga
Rarotonga is the most populous island of the Cook Islands, with a population of 14,153 , out of the country's total population of 19,569.The Cook Islands' Parliament buildings and international airport are on Rarotonga...

 had about five or six of them, when most of the other islands only had about three - each ariki ruled an ivi or ngati (tribe). Beneath each ariki in the social hierarchy were a number of mataiapo
A mataiapo or mata'iapo is a hereditary chiefly title in the Cook Islands. The head of a sub-tribe, subject to the ariki as far as the whole tribe is concerned and owing him traditional allegiance, but otherwise largely independent as head of his own family group and owning land in his own...

and rangatira
Rangatira (Cook Islands)
A rangatira was the title given to a minor chief in the Cook Islands - often someone who was closely related to an ariki or mataiapo, now usually by the younger brothers or sisters; the head of a branch of a rangatira or mataiapo family....

(minor chiefs) of noble rank.

A chief's control over his people was related to his mana (power), his mana not only came from birth but also from his achievements and status, this could be gained or lost. An ariki who lost popularity with his people could also be seen as having a decline in mana, which could have led to his loss of control.

Having a control of tapu (sacred matters) was a powerful weapon for the ariki. For supernatural reasons, certain activities were forbidden and since the ariki had control over what was or wasn't forbidden, this gave him considerable power. It was the people's strong belief in an ariki's mana and control over all things tapu that allowed them to take control of their people without the need for physical enforcement.

The ariki, mataiapo and rangatira titles are passed down through the family to the present day, some of the ancient ceremonies and traditions are also still being practiced in the Cook Islands.

The House of Ariki
House of Ariki
The House of Ariki is a parliamentary body in the Cook Islands. It is composed of Cook Islands high chiefs , appointed by the Queen's Representative...

 (Are Ariki) is a parliamentary body in the Cook Islands, it was established in 1967 shortly after self-government. It is composed of the Cook Islands high chiefs, it was created to marginalize the ariki giving them dignity but very limited power.

See also

  • Ali'i
    Alii is a word in the Polynesian language denoting chiefly status in ancient Hawaii and the Samoa Islands. A similar word with the same concept is found in other Polynesian societies. In the Cook Islands, an ariki is a high chief and the House of Ariki is a parliamentary house...

  • Makea Takau Ariki
    Makea Takau Ariki
    Makea Takau Ariki was a sovereign of the Cook Islands. She was the ariki of the dynasty Makea Nui , one of the three chiefdoms of the tribe Te Au O Tonga on the island of Rarotonga....

     (Cook Islands)
  • Paramount chief (Oceania)
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