Marae o Rongo i Polynesia

June 4, 2008 at 7:15 pm 11 comments

Unraveling some Evolving Mysteries
Conference 6-7 August 2008
Rarotonga, Cook Islands

in association with the
Ministry of Cultural Development
University of the South Pacific Cook Islands Campus
Cook Islands Library and Museum Society

Marae Orongo exist in the Cook Islands on Aitutaki, Atiu (2), Mangaia (3), Miti’aro & Ma’uke at least. Orongo is a famous marae on Rapanui (Easter Island). They exist on some islands in French Polynesia and at least three exist in Aotearoa/New Zealand. Lono (Rongo) was also a great deity in Hawai’i.

There are many unsolved mysteries about the Marae Orongo and the purpose of this conference is to begin unraveling them:
• Why are most marae located inland, but most Marae Orongo on the Northwest coast?
• Why do they not seem to exist in Western Polynesia (Tonga, Samoa, Niue, Uvea etc) but to be very widespread in Eastern Polynesia?
• Who was Rongo and what were his characteristics, roles and powers in each island?
• What are the origins of the Marae Orongo?
• In what sequence were they founded?
• Do we have any indications of when they were first built?
• What do we know of the structures on them, and of the origins, shapes, designs etc of the stone, wood and fibre artifacts used?
• What plants were appropriate on and around the marae?
What of the rituals performed, and the associated beliefs and social conditions?
• What changes took place when Christianity arrived? Some marae were destroyed, some abandoned, some sacred images were burned or smashed or taken – some to overseas museums.
• What functions did the churches take over from the marae? E.g. as sites for first fruits rituals, for installing chiefs, for ritual sacrifice (through communion), and on Mangaia at least (and possibly Ma’uke) as the physical embodiment of the division of the fish of Rongo (the land itself) in the physical division or allocation of space within the church.
• Some marae continued to be used for certain purposes, such as installing chiefs (usually shared with the church), or secret rituals, or historical interest, or identity symbols of a clan or tribe. In some cases people were unsure about their remaining sacred or supernatural qualities. In recent years some marae have been reconstructed by the owning clans – especially for installing chiefs, or as historical interest for descendants of the clan returning from overseas for holidays or to “retrace their roots”. Some are used by schools and adults for education about local history; including sometimes to educate tourists and provide income for local tour guides and landowners.
• What is their likely future?

Activities in the Cook Islands now
Most of us at the Cook Islands Research Association (CIRA) first became aware of this when we were asked for any written information on Te Marae Orongo in Atiu. This was because the cruise ship Clipper Odyssey, through its agent on Atiu Mr Juergen Manske, offered to fund an ecological or historical restoration project on Atiu, and the Atiu people decided to reconstruct one or both Marae Orongo. We at CIRA were not at first aware that there are two Marae Orongo in Atiu.

Once Ngatua’ine Maui of the Ministry of Culture and Marjie Crocombe of CIRA read the literature, it was obvious that there were Marae Orongo throughout Eastern Polynesia (but not, it seems, in Western Polynesia). Atiu has traditional experts on oral history there (including Ina Teiotu, who is a member of the executive of CIRA; Paiere Mokoroa and others). Professor Hiro Kurashina, a distinguished archaeologist, and Professor Becky Stephenson, a social anthropologist who did PhD studies on Atiu 30 years ago, were invited to assist in the reconstruction. This is an important initiative.

One CIRA member said that some Mangaia leaders had worked on the history of their Marae Orongo and the story of Rongo. Alan Tuara has produced several videos and he and Mataora Harry plan to present a video and report on Marae of Rongo in Mangaia at the conference. The Aitutaki Historical Society has been collecting data for some time for a book on Te Marae Orongo with Tupuariki Puna, Teupo’o Bishop and others. They too intend to make a video of it – from its ancient to its present functions.

Now we find that Julian Aupini of Miti’aro was well advanced in writing a book on Miti’aro with a chapter on Orongo and other marae. All are enthusiastic to join a wider exploration of these marae and their histories and connections, and plan to be at the conference. Mapu Taia and No’o Maunga are being consulted about Te Marae O Rongo on Ma’uke.

Te Marae Orongo elsewhere in Polynesia
The Cook Islands Research Association now invites any interested persons from other islands of Polynesia where Marae Orongo exist, to attend the conference on 6-7 August and present papers, films or other media on their Marae Orongo.

We expect that those with the interest in each country or island will publish their own book or articles, make their own film, record their own chants and songs on the subject. If there is enough interest, people from each Marae Orongo may want to write a chapter for a Polynesia-wide book on the subject. The University of the South Pacific has shown a preliminary interest in publishing it if the authors wish, and one donor may assist with moderate publishing costs.

Experienced Cook Islander filmmakers include Jeanne Matenga & Karin Williams (each with her own film company), July Taripo & Ngatua’ine Maui could help with a film on Marae Orongo in Polynesia to be made jointly by all those who have made videos on the various projects.

Unfortunately the Research Association does not have any funds. It is a newly-founded voluntary association and had its first conference in February this year. It was a tremendous success. This will be its second conference.

Rod Dixon, Director of the USP Campus in Rarotonga, and Makiuti Tongia hope to be able to to pay the fares to the conference of one person from each of the Cook Islands that has a Marae Orongo. We hope that there will be enough interest in other parts of Polynesia for those interested in joining us to find funds in their countries to meet their costs and expenses. It promises to be a very exciting and innovative conference, and to lead to important contributions to the knowledge and understanding of an important element of Polynesia’s history, present-day culture, and future.

Makiuti Tongia, Secretary for the Ministry of Cultural Development, extends a warm invitation to any who are coming to the conference on 6-7 August, to come a week early and participate in the Maeva Nui – the Cook Islands great annual festival which will be held from 1 to 10 August.

We look forward to hearing from you, and hope to be able to welcome you to Rarotonga in August.

Kia manuia

Angie Tuara, President, Cook Islands Research Association

Ron Crocombe, Vice-President, Cook Islands Research Association
Professor Emeritus, University of the South Pacific

Makiuti Tongia, Secretary, Ministry of Cultural Development

Rod Dixon, Director, USP Cook Islands

Air services

  • Air New Zealand flies to Rarotonga from Auckland and Australia twice most days & Pacific Blue (Virgin) twice weekly.
  • Air NZ flies Los Angeles/Rarotonga once a week (Sunday night arriving early Monday).
  • Air Tahiti Nui flies Tahiti/Rarotonga on Tuesday & Saturday.
  • Hawai’i has one flight a week to Tahiti or daily to Auckland.
  • LANChile flies Rapanui/Tahiti 3 times weekly.

Accommodation will be very tight at that time because of the Maeva Nui Festival, but if you can’t get accommodation booked by your travel agent, let us know what flights you intend to arrive and depart on, and what kind of accommodation you want, we will try to book it for you.

If you wish to present a paper, film or display to the conference, you will be very welcome to do so, but please contact one of us, or the Secretary, Imogen Pua Ingram at

If you want to join you are very welcome.

Fees are:

  • one year NZ$20
  • five years NZ$100
  • life member NZ$1,000

Entry filed under: Conferences, Research. Tags: , , , , , , .

President’s Report Mar 08 The Cook Islands in 2050

11 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Jason Taura  |  August 15, 2008 at 4:41 am

    If you people are truelly interested in the real truth, and not myths, about the origins and functions of the Orongo marae in Atiu, the only people you should be consulting in Atiu, are the people of Mokoero. They have ruled Atiu, since Utatakienua invaded Atiu, over 20 generations ago. His line descended down form him, to Tangapatoro, to Ngamaru Rongotini Povaru. They are the true owners of the Orongo marae. The people who are holding the titles of Parua Ariki, Rongomatane, and Ngamaru Ariki, today, are not realated to the Kopu Ariki of Mokoero,- they are imposters. And anyway, Parua Ariki comes from Mapumai, and Rongomatane comes from Tengatangai. Go and ask the true kopu Ariki of Mokoero.

  • 2. Elsie Maria Evaroa  |  September 17, 2008 at 11:53 pm

    I’m not even sure if I’ve written tht correctly, however, that’s where I’m from……Ua is my grandfather on my mother’s side and Uma is my grandfather on my Dad’s side (Evaroa/McBirney).

    I now the name Tuara…….my grandmother (Dad’s mum) was Elsie McBirney, one of the three McBirney sisters. Anyhoo!

    I’ve only just come across the article re the Marae on Atiu, I’m too late now obviously, but is there anything put in print from this hui?

    I’m still in the process of tracing my akapapa, to pass onto my two Sons.

    I’ve not had the luxury of having this information imparted to me from my father so I’ve had to get out there and look for myself.
    Please advise

  • 3. Lost Interested Atiuan  |  October 2, 2008 at 8:16 am

    I am so interested in the History of Atiu!
    Im just young Mapu (lol) wana kno my roots.
    An too Elsie Maria Evaroa, WE ARE SOOOO RELATED!!, ive got the fam tree were use are on the same line as me, SOO KOOL!!!

  • 4. Paul Tuara  |  January 5, 2009 at 11:46 am

    Hey there ‘Lost Interested Atiuan’ 😀
    I am Elsie’s half brother on her Atiuan side (Same Mother),descended from – Mareera Ua ( My Grandfather).

    Would really be interested to see your family tree, as I am also on a personal pilgrimage to document my Family tree.

    If there’s anyones else out there who holds vital info , would much appreciate the help ?

    Cheers – Paul.

  • 5. Lost Interested Atiuan  |  January 21, 2009 at 1:07 am

    Hi Atiuanz!! lol
    Just going thru tha fam tree paul an i come under elsie’s dad side tiputa , i have the fam tree from that side. Freakn out coz mum just told me the older 3 sons of tiputa were all at my mum an dads wedding in Tokoroa, lol, my mum just told me, lol, she dont tell me much coz shes been born an breed in aitutaki. well anyway , wish you luck on your search 4 your fam tree. I think theres a book that got document on ALL the familys from Atiu. I dont kno who has it but its got the whole of atiu in it. If your on bebo you an elsie can add me , there we have a fam band called k6. on their is our line.
    just write in Mapumai – Rapu mai on bebo youll find me. Kar-keets

  • 6. Elsie Maria Evaroa  |  April 22, 2009 at 9:22 pm

    Kiaorana “Lost Interested Atuian”…..
    I don’t have bebo just yet, in fact I don’t even have a computer at home, will get one though.
    So who are you dear……the older 3 sons of Tiputa would’ve been Uncle William (Bill), Uncle David (dec) and George Evaroa. I am George’s daughter and the first born to Tangiora Munokoa (Ua)
    Lets talk and yep that’s my half bro Paul.

  • 7. Marianne  |  October 18, 2010 at 9:03 pm

    hello all my father is Taura Ariki Tangapatoro

  • 8. Tere George  |  December 21, 2010 at 4:15 pm

    My name is Teremataiapo George. What you say matches my Papaanga. Tangapatoro is Ngamaru, Parua is Akaina, Rongomatane is Parua in Tengatangi. In my papaanga Utatakienua(the elder brother of Taratoa,who went back to Araura and then to Aotearoa) dates back 37 uki. About 1400AD. Kia Orana.

  • 9. Catharine.  |  February 2, 2012 at 10:55 pm

    My grandmother’s sister was Edith Mary George born in London in 1871. She would have been William Uma Evaroa’s grandmother.

    I remember being told about the Raratonga connection but it was always rather vague, though I think Grandma did get a Christmas card for many years.

    I would love to find out more about the family, many of whom I think now live in New Zealand.

  • 10. George Anapa  |  August 20, 2013 at 1:26 am

    My name is Tangapatoro my grandfather is Ngaata Terepai Tangapatoro I am from the line of Kii” in Ngatiarua yep so keep in touch. Kia Orana

  • 11. honoura  |  November 15, 2013 at 1:20 am

    Je recherche ma famille de Mitiaro, pouvez vous m’aidez, merci d’avance


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