By Gabby Storey
Makea Takau Ariki, ariki meaning ruler, was chiefess of the Makea Nui dynasty, one of the three chiefdoms on the island of Rarotonga. She was married in the 1860s to the chief of Aitu, Ngamaru Rongotini Ariki.
Their marriage was childless, but reportedly happy according to contemporary news sources. Ngamaru died in 1903.
Makea succeeded her uncle in 1871 and her early years were marked by peace and favourable domestic policies. By the 1880s, Makea had become more concerned with the threat of French invasion and asked for the British to intercede.
The British were reluctant to become involved with the island, however they established a protectorate in 1888. This was to last for slightly over a decade before the island was annexed by New Zealand in 1900.
We know little else of Makea’s reign, with the most information recorded concerning foreign policy negotiations. The agreement made between Rarotonga and New Zealand was signed by four other ariki, demonstrating that Makea’s power was not absolute over the entire island.
She continued to rule until her death on 1 May 1911. She had nominated Rangi Makea as her succession prior to her death.
Beatrice Ethel Grimshaw, In the Strange South Seas (London: Hutchinson & Co., 1907)
Richard Philip Gilson, The Cook Islands, 1820–1950 (Wellington: Victoria University Press, 1980).