Kinship – from a Cook Islands Perspective

Kinship – from a Cook Islands Perspective

Taria Kingstone

Identity in Kinship

I find my identity in the people who came before me. Like my eight great grand parents. Knowing about them gives me insight into my cultural and spiritual heritage. It also helps me to link myself with other Cook Islanders. Most Cook Islanders can find a kinship connection with each other in no more than two or three steps.Family for a Cook Islander is more than just parents, brothers and sisters. I’d say that at least half of the Cook Islanders I know have been brought up by grandparents, aunts or uncles. Usually when someone is adopted out, it is into a family that is related somehow.

The closest Cook Island Māori equivalent for the English word “family’, is Kopu tangata. It means extended family. Ngutuare tangata is the phrase we use to refer to a household of people � the people who live together at one place, which could include people like boarders.

What does this all mean for ministry with young people?

The support of parents is what keeps our work going. I think of two rugby coaches. One told the players to come to practices and left it up to the conscience of each one. The other coach told his players he expected them to turn up to practice. He followed that up by contacting all the parents. Guess which coach had the consistent turnout for the year.Young people in our church get to take part in lots of activities with their extended family. The kopu tangata is there with us whether we’re eating, singing, fundraising, travelling or celebrating together.

One of the down sides of this is that it can be hard for some young people to join in when their family is not involved in the church. Providing transport for these young people can be really important. All the same, even the parents who have dropped out of the church link up with us when it comes time for a funeral or wedding.

Working with young people for me is an extension of my experience of kopu tangata.

Taria Kingstone

Sunday School Teacher, Musician, Education Liaison Officer
St Luke’s Pacific Island Presbyterian Church, Tokoroa.