Tangiia Nui was named Uenga by his mother, Ka'ungake Ariki ki te Marama, when he was born; later his grandfather, Amaru Enua, named him Rangi.
He was adopted by his uncle, Pou te Vanangaroa ki Iva, who renamed him Tangiia Nui, which is the name he is known by in the Cook Islands, while Uenga is his New Zealand name.
Pou was paramount chief of Tahiti and the Marquesas, and he had two born-to sons and another adopted nephew-son (Tu Tapu). Pou divided his territory between the four men, giving Tangiia Nui the office of junior chief of Tahiti, under Maono, one of the born-to sons. He rebelled, drove Maono into the interior and had himself declared chief.
He soon came into conflict with Tu Tapu over ceremonial regalia and the possession of a bathing pool, and Tu Tapu sailed to Marquesas, while Tangiia Nui went to Mauke in the Cook Islands. But this did not settle the dispute, which raged for many years, across the Pacific Ocean, in a series of fierce battles and epic voyages, ending finally with Tu Tapu's death on Rarotonga in the Cook Islands.
Tangiia Nui's followers formed one of the two principal tribes of Rarotonga and many years later his descendants sailed from there to settle in New Zealand in one of the early migrations.
Tangiia Nui was the father of many children, most of them killed in the wars, and he also adopted Te Ariki Upoko Tini and was the birth father of Te Rei (or Maui), who was raised by foster parents on the island of Mangaia.
The legends of the war between these two adoptive bothers comprise one of the principal primary sources for the history of early Polynesian migration, and also one of the main pieces of evidence of their legendary navigational skills. But it is now accepted that while the main characters and outline of the history are quite likely based on real people, the details of the voyages are unlikely to be historical.
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