House of Ariki

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Arikis at the opening of the 39th Annual General Meeting of the House of Arki in December 2010

The House of Ariki (Cook Islands Māori: Are Ariki) is a parliamentary body in the Cook Islands. It is composed of Cook Islands high chiefs (ariki), appointed by the Queen's Representative. There are up to twenty four members,[1] representing different islands of the Cooks.[2]

Its function is to:

"consider such matters relative to the welfare of the people of the Cook Islands as may be submitted to it by [Parliament] for its consideration, and it shall express its opinion and make recommendations thereon to [Parliament]"[3]

It may only discuss matters put to it by the democratically elected Parliament, and may only voice suggestions in return.


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It was established in 1967 by Prime Minister Albert Henry, shortly after the country obtained self-government from New Zealand. Henry stated that the ariki were the Cook Islands' "royal heritage". The House of Ariki was intended to confer additional legitimacy and strength to the newly self-governing nation, and to help it define its national identity.[4] Henry stated:

"The ariki [and other chiefly ranks] and their tribes are the backbone of all nations in this world. For any nation to allow this backbone to be broken or to disappear would mean that they are relying on a foreign backbone for their survival."[5]


The members are:

The incumbent president of the House of Ariki is Tou Travel Ariki (Mitiaro). The vice-president is Kainuku Kapiriterangi Ariki (Takitumu).[6]


According to Ron Crocombe and Jon Tikivanotau Jonassen:

"The House of Ariki was created to marginalize the ariki. Most of them had opposed the party that won the election at self-government, so it created and quarantined them in a House with dignity but no power. To marginalize ariki further, that party later created a Koutu Nui of mata'iapo and rangatira (lesser chiefs) many of whom had supported the party."[7]

June 2008 coup claim[edit]

On 13 June 2008, a small majority of members of the House of Ariki attempted a coup, claiming to dissolve the elected government and to take control of the country's leadership. "Basically we are dissolving the leadership, the prime minister and the deputy prime minister and the ministers," chief Makea Vakatini Joseph Ariki explained. The Cook Islands Herald suggested that the Ariki were attempting thereby to regain some of their traditional prestige or mana.[8][9]

Prime Minister Jim Marurai described the take-over move as "ill-founded and nonsensical".[10] Police commissioner Pat Tasker added that it was "laughable", and that the police did not intend to take it seriously.[11] By 23 June, the situation appeared to have normalised, with members of the House of Ariki accepting to return to their regular duties.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Since the 2002 constitutional amendment
  2. ^ Constitution of the Cook Islands, section 8
  3. ^ Constitution of the Cook Islands, section 9
  4. ^ "Premier Albert Henry stressed that the retention and recognition of the nation’s ‘royal heritage’ would associate the Cook Islands with the more fortunate nations of the world, that is, with nations such as Great-Britain [or] Tonga […] which had maintained a strong sovereign identity. [...] The choice before the people of the Cook Islands was, therefore, a clear one – either to follow the path of Great Britain, the ‘Mother Country,’ and retain an indigenous spine, or to follow that of the New Zealand Māori and allow ‘the backbone of Polynesian existence to disappear’. […] Ariki, like the British monarchy, lent historical depth to this nation while increasing its prestige (at least in its own eyes) within the Pacific region." Sissons, Jeffrey. Nation and Destination: Creating Cook Islands Identity. Suva: University of the South Pacific (Institute of Pacific Studies), 1999, ISBN 982-02-0142-X, pp.61–62.
  5. ^ Albert Henry, quoted in Sissons, Jeffrey, ibid
  6. ^ "Tou Ariki re elected President of House of Ariki". Cook Islands Herald. 2 December 2009. Retrieved 20 December 2009.
  7. ^ Ron Crocombe and Jon Tikivanotau Jonassen. "Political culture, representation and the electoral system in the Cook Islands". Political Culture, Representation and Electoral Systems in the Pacific conference paper, Port Vila, Vanuatu, 10–12 July 2004
  8. ^ "Cooks heading for internal strife", TVNZ, 13 June 2008
  9. ^ "NZ Māori stirs Cooks sovereignty stoush",, 13 June 2008
  10. ^ "NZ Māori behind strange Cook's 'coup'",, 17 June 2008
  11. ^ "Cooks deputy PM to meet chiefs over takeover claims", ABC Radio Australia, 19 June 2008.
  12. ^ "Cook Islands chiefs drop take over claim, return to normal duties", Radio New Zealand International, 23 June 2008

External links[edit]