Editorial: Ariki/church/government: a healthy tension

Saturday July 06, 2019 Written by Published in Opinion

There’s a page in the paper that not everybody reads. That’s because it’s titled, the KidsPage.


It’s relevant to all of us this long weekend, though, as we mark Ui Ariki day. Because it celebrates an immersive programme to help children learn about their own traditional Maori culture and practices.

People have told me there can sometimes be a tension – arguably a healthy tension – between the three pillars of Cook Islands community, enua (traditional ariki), ture (government), and evangelia (church).

The values they celebrate are not always in complete alignment. Jesus said "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's; and to God the things that are God's." Add to that the duties to traditional leadership, though, and some people tell me they feel pulled in three directions.

Ui Ariki day is a new holiday, trying to find the best way to celebrate traditional culture. When all else fails, it falls back on bringing together the community through kaikai!

It complements religious holidays (like Easter and Gospel Day) and government holidays (like Constitution Day). The addition of Ui Ariki day may seem an afterthought, but it makes an important statement. Because we know from research and sometimes bitter experience that any community disregards its cultural roots at its peril – and at its children’s peril.

Around the Pacific, children who focus solely on the Three Rs of British education heritage – reading, writing and ’rithmetic – become lost and disengaged. They don’t progress so well as those who first learn their own language and culture.

One of the four streams of the Cook Islands education masterplan is Taku Ipukarea Kia Rangatira – a focus on strengthening Maori language, culture and aspiration to engage with the wider world. So the cultural learning we report on today’s KidsPage should be fundamental to education, at home and at school. And embracing tradition through new celebrations like Ui Ariki day is a healthy part of living in this country.

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