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Sunday 2nd August – Saturday 8th August 2020
Kia Orana! This week is te Epetoma ō te reo Māori Kūki ’Āirani – Cook Islands Language Week and to celebrate we will share Cook Islands items from our Natural History and Documentary Heritage collections and a story from our Online Cenotaph, along with a colouring in sheet and even a video to teach you simple words and phrases in Cook Islands Māori.
This week is a time for all our Cook Islands people in Aotearoa and the world over to celebrate and share our culture and language.
The Language Week theme for this year is: “Kia puāvai tō tatou reo Māori Kūki ’Āirani i Aotearoa” - May the Cook Islands Māori language prosper in Aotearoa. The theme urges everyone to make use of the language in any way whether by speaking, singing, dancing or through arts.
I am excited to be working in partnership with Auckland Museum and the wider community online, and sharing more about Cook Islands collections and stories at the Museum. I am particularly excited about our first Cook Islands Zoom discussions on selected fishes in the Museum’s collection.
Tauraki Rongo Raea
Tāmaki Paenga Hira Auckland War Memorial Museum held an online discussion session through Zoom video conference on Tuesday, 4th August 2020. It highlight three Cook Islands fish specimens from the Natural Sciences collection, the Kōkiri (Pinktail triggerfish), the Ka’a (or Kanai, Squaretailed mullet), Vete (Goatfish) and a register of specimens and local names for fish species collected 1926-1934. This discussion session was part of the celebration of Cook Islands Language Week 2020.
The three fish were discussed by a panel of Cook Island knowledge holders: Makira Maea (Tokoroa), Taiau Nicholas (Auckland), Dr Teina Rongo (Rarotonga), Ma’ara Maeva (Mauke, now living in Auckland) and Tauraki Rongo (Auckland). Background information about the fish and the Griffin register of fishes were shared by Dr Tom Trnski. The panelists and participants engaged in an in-depth discussion that included exploring Cook Islands fishing practices, dance movements and chants inspired by fish, canoe building, genealogy and the impacts of climate change not only on fishing practices but on the continuance of Cook Islands language.
Our heartfelt gratitude to our panelists for discussing, sharing and coming together with the museum to enlighten us all.
To celebrate all our Pacific Language Weeks, Auckland Museum commissioned short films made by Pacific artists and filmmakers based on objects or memories of home. The brief for these films were left intentionally broad to allow the makers to open the vā to be navigated by the makers and knowledge-holders to let the stories, entangled in all Pacific languages, go wherever it needed to.
We wanted these videos to be made by the people for the people of the Pacific. Not an external visitor to the islands filming strangers but connected people who are telling their stories in their own ways. Objects contain so many stories, especially if they have travelled the Great Ocean of Kiwa and now, like so many Pacific peoples, call Aotearoa home.
The Raro Dog aka Rob George decided to produce a short documentary about local Cook Islander, Evotia-Rose Araiti.
Framed within a photography session, Evotia-Rose speaks personally about being a proud Cook Islander and some of the barriers to learning the language and how she overcomes them.
Produced for Tāmaki Paenga Hira Auckland War Memorial Museum to celebrate Cook Islands Language Week 2020.
Through this video, Auckland Museum Learning Specialist Ma'ara Maeva shares some common greetings and phrases in Cook Islands Māori.
From Sunday 2 August until Saturday 8 August the Museum will be illumuniated every evening in red, white and blue in recognition of Cook Islands Language Week.
Auckland Museum's Herbarium holds over 3,500 plant specimens from the Cook Islands, including a thousand plant specimens collected by Thomas Cheeseman, who carried out the first botanical survey in the Cook Islands in 1899. Cheeseman was an acclaimed botanist, and Director of Auckland Museum from 1874-1923.
“common all through the island…wood red, durable, used for making canoes”
Described by Cheeseman: Homalium acuminatum (Flacourtiaceae)
Type specimen: AK227087
An endemic herb to Rarotonga with green flowers.
Described by Cheeseman: Sclerotheca viridflora (Campanulaceae)
Type specimen: AK92674
“It is slightly fragrant when bruised or drying". Male and female flowers are on separate plants. Described by Cheeseman: Coprosma laevigata (Rubiaceae)
Type specimen: AK77859
In the winter, Rarotongans "make numerous expeditions to the hills in order to collect the honey from the flowers, which is secreted in large quantities.” Described by Cheeseman: Fitchia speciosa (Asteraceae)
Type specimen: AK90474
Described by Cheeseman: Weinmannia rarotongensis (Cunoniaceae) Kaiatea was described as endemic to Rarotonga, but now thought to be native to Samoa as well. Type specimen of Cheeseman’s name: Weinmannia rarotongensis (Cunoniaceae), is now treated as a synonym of Weinmannia samoensis – the earlier published name has priority.
Cheeseman’s specimen: AK73834
“Cultivated by the natives from time immemorial… the kinds cultivated before the arrival of Europeans were two, which were distinguished as Kumara-rea, possessing white skin and yellowish flesh, and Kumara-tea, which had white skin and white flesh. Of late years many varieties have been introduced…and these appear to be preferred to the original stock.”
One of Cheeseman’s kumara collections: AK92948
Auckland Museum’s Head of Natural Sciences and avid fish expert, Tom Trnski, shares how a recently opened old box of hand-written notes fills in some long-standing gaps, and opens up a conversation with Cook Island knowledge holders about the naming of fish.
In preparation for our Zoom talanoa for Cook Islands Language Week, we were recently joined by Teariki Rongo and Tauraki Rongo, two knowledge-holders from our Cook Islands community. Teariki and Tauraki came to Auckland Museum to view and to select taonga from our Natural Science collections, to discuss on the Zoom talanoa. Three fish specimens were selected - the kōkiri (Pinktail triggerfish), vete (Yellowstripe goatfish) and ka`a (squaretail mullet).
The knowledge-holders were amazed to see these specimens in such great condition, despite being collected some 94 years ago.
Auckland Museum's Paula Legel, Associate Curator, Heritage Publications and Leone Samu, Associate Curator, Documentary Heritage - Pacific have taken inspiration from the collaboration between our Natural Sciences team and Cook Island knowledge holders about the marine life found in Cook Islands’ waters, to feature several fish-themed publications found in our Documentary Heritage collection. These also happen to span the breadth of the Cook Islands themselves.
The first of our highlights is a beautifully illustrated children’s book about the making of a Paiere (fishing canoe) on the island of Ma‘uke in the southern group (also known as Akatokamanava) by Judith Kunzle. Called ‘Paiere : The Making of a Fishing Canoe in Ma‘uke’, and published in 1995 by the Cook Islands Natural Heritage Project, the book shows, through beautiful watercolours, a group of canoe builders creating a new paiere from scratch. Judith Kunzle lived on Rarotonga for many years and has worked closely with the local knowledge holders to create this demonstration of an important traditional creative process. She has interwoven local Ma‘uke terms (rather than Rarotongan) into the text and acknowledged a number of those who contributed their knowledge; Rairi Rairi, Rangi Moekaa, Mata Taruia, Vavia Mata, Ngavii Tere, Tautara Purea and Noo Aiturau.
Heading further northward from Ma‘uke, our second and very different publication comes from the two islands of Palmerston and Suwarrow, each having their own romantic and colourful histories. However, this title is one in a series of field reports from the New Zealand Oceanographic Institute published in 1985 on the fish to be found around the reefs of these atolls. ‘A Guide to The Reef Fishes of Palmerston and Suwarrow Atolls, Cook Islands’ is a scientific survey of all the fish the authors K. R. Grange and R. J. Singleton identified from underwater observations and photographs. The colour photographs enable clear identification and there is a short description included of each fish.
We then dive back to the 1800s and two titles based around the Cook Islands and in particular, Tongareva (Penrhyn Atoll) and Mangaia.
‘Wild Life Among The Pacific Islanders’ (published 1867) was written by E. H. Lamont, an American trader and beachcomber who voyaged through the islands of French Polynesia and the Southern Cooks until he eventually washed up on Tongareva in 1853 after the brig “Chatham” was wrecked on the reef. Tongareva (Penrhyn Atoll) is the most remote of the Cook Islands, 1360 kilometres north east of Rarotonga. Lamont and the other survivors were captured by the locals, becoming involved in the local community. In fact, though only on Tongareva a year, Lamont was so involved he had three wives whilst there, before escaping on a canoe he built with Bill, another survivor of the shipwreck. He was picked up by a whaling ship, the “John Appleton” out of New Bedford and so managed to get to Rarotonga. This title has interesting references to fishing at that time, including methods and types of fish caught. You can read the references to fish and fishing in this book online here.
Our last title is ‘Jottings From The Pacific’ (published 1885), by the Reverend William Gill, a missionary on Mangaia for 20 years and then on Rarotonga until he retired to Sydney in 1883. Reverend Gill published numerous books on the Cook Islands, including translations of religious texts and the bible. Gill was curious and interested in everything, recording all aspects of culture of the communities across the Cook Islands. He was also a keen observer of the natural world as evidenced in the third section of this title called, ‘Zoological and Botanical notes’. In this he documents his learnings of all aspects of marine life, including local terms and customary knowledge gleaned from knowledge holders. You can also read the references to fish and fishing in this book online here.
Another great online resource to access and research fishes, flora and other fauna found in the Cook Islands is the Cook Islands Biodiversity Database developed by the Cook Islands Natural Heritage Trust and hosted by the Bishop Museum based in Honolulu, Hawaii. Common names of different species are often listed alongside their name in Cook Islands Maori as well in Latin. Images, scientific taxonomy, and distribution in the geographic area are also key features of the records in this comprehensive database.
Bring to life the beautiful fish found in the clear waters of the Cook Islands.
William Kainana Cuthers, Researcher and Academic Writer, has written an article in celebration of Cook Islands Language Week and to commemorate and highlight the legacy of Cook Islands service persons, like his grandfather and namesake William Kiri Cuthers, a Coastwatcher during the Second World War.
Introduction written by Arerangi Tongia.