Cook Islands Heroes: Ru and Tua Pittman

It’s Cook Islands Language Week and we’re celebrating by sharing a little about some of the inspirational people featured in my book Cook Islands Heroes. The aim of this book is to inspire Kuki Airani young people and anyone else who loves reading stories of people who overcame great challenges to achieve their goals in life.

Today’s Cook Islands heroes are: Ru and Tua Pittman

Ru was an explorer and master navigator who loved discovering new islands. For several months he had been planning a new and exciting journey. But some members of his family didn’t want to go on a new journey – they were happy where they were.

“We could get lost at sea,” said one.

“There could be fearsome creatures out there,” said another.

Ru could see that his family needed some inspiring. “The mysteries of the ocean are waiting for us to find them,” he said. “We must not fear what we can’t see. Whatever is waiting for us is exciting. We must always move forward.”

Then he taught them a chant:

Tu mai ra e ‘oe ra. (Stand up and row.)

Oea te vaka kia tere ki mua. (Row the canoe forward.)

Na runga i te moana uriuri e o Iro e. (Over the mysteries of the ocean, with God.)

Auraka i te mataku i te tua o te ngaru, e ‘oe ra. (Don’t be afraid of what’s out there, just row.)

A mou taua i te tua o te oe. (Hold your paddles firmly.)

E tauri e tauri e! (Row, row, row!)”

The group sailed across the peaceful Pacific for many days. But one afternoon a storm came that threatened to sink the canoes. Some of the people were terrified that they were going to drown in the ocean. “We told you this would happen!” one said.

“E Ru e ko te mate ma’ata,” said another. “Naringa matou tei te enua kare e apukuia te moana. (This is the end for us Ru. If we had stayed on land, we wouldn’t be swallowed up by the ocean.)”

But Ru’s will to live was strong and his dream of seeing new lands inspired his faith. He did what people throughout the centuries have done when they need help – he looked up to heaven and prayed.

“Tangaroa i te titi. (Tangaroa on high.)

Tangaroa i te tata. (Tangaroa below.)

Eueu ake ana ra te rangi. (Clear the skies.)

Kia tae atu te vaka o Ru ki uta. (Take our canoes safely ashore.)

Te ua e te matangi akarongo. (Wind and rain obey.)

Marino. Marino. (Bring calm and peace)”

Hope gave them strength and to everyone’s amazement, the storm calmed and in the distance, an island appeared. Ru stood on the beach and proclaimed: “This land will be known as ‘Ara Ura Enua O Ru Ki Te Moana.’ (The challenging path of Ru over the ocean to find new land).” Today the island is known as, Aitutaki.


Tua Pittman

Tua Pittman (Rarotonga, Mangaia) is a modern day Ru – a master of long distance ocean voyaging. He’s one of two Cook Island master navigators and has sailed the Pacific for over thirty years, using the stars, the planets, the flight patterns of birds, and the ocean as his guide … just like Ru did.

“I love learning the traditional art of voyaging and navigation because it connects me with the brilliance of our ancestors,” Tua says. “To sail Moana Nui a Kiva on a traditional voyaging canoe, in the footsteps of these great people, is an honour which brings glory to them.”

“For me, being a Cook Islander is about family – the love, respect and connection between our elders and children. It’s about the pride of the islands and people we have. It’s about living life and realizing how fortunate we are to live in this paradise.”

Want to read about more Cook Islands achievers like Ru and Tua? Check out Cook Islands Heroes, available now!

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