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Charles Iti Strickland

Photo courtesy of South Pacific Division Heritage Centre.

Strickland, Charles Iti (1847–1933)

By Milton Hook


Milton Hook, Ed.D. (Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Michigan, the United States). Hook retired in 1997 as a minister in the Greater Sydney Conference, Australia. An Australian by birth Hook has served the Church as a teacher at the elementary, academy and college levels, a missionary in Papua New Guinea, and as a local church pastor. In retirement he is a conjoint senior lecturer at Avondale College of Higher Education. He has authored Flames Over Battle Creek, Avondale: Experiment on the Dora, Desmond Ford: Reformist Theologian, Gospel Revivalist, the Seventh-day Adventist Heritage Series, and many magazine articles. He is married to Noeleen and has two sons and three grandchildren.

First Published: January 29, 2020

Iti Strickland, a Cook Islander, was the first to invite Seventh-day Adventist missionaries to commence working on his home island of Aitutaki, Cook Islands. He became a Seventh-day Adventist and spent twenty years leading the work of the church on his home island and elsewhere as a missionary. His descendants continue to fill key roles in the work of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the South Pacific Division.

The Strickland Family

Charles Iti Strickland was born in 1847 on Aitutaki Atoll, Cook Islands. His father, Geoffrey Strickland (1839–1926), had arrived from America and married Tapita Paerau, a local woman. To this marriage were born ten children, including Charles Iti Strickland, commonly known as Iti. Strickland married 14-year-old Ruth Kairangi, born on the atoll in 1868. They had a number of children, including a daughter named Tereapii, born in 1882.1 By the early 1900s his family had grown to include grandchildren.2 He and Ruth were living in the port village of Reureu and initiated an invitation to George Sterling to send a missionary to Aitutaki.3

Advent of the Mission

George and Maybelle Sterling left the care of the Cook Islands Mission in the hands of others on Rarotonga and sailed north to Aitutaki in mid-1912 to pioneer the outpost in response to the Strickland invitation. On arrival Strickland accommodated them in two rooms of Tereapii’s home at Reureu.4 Sterling conducted meetings in several villages and within months had formed a Sabbath School of 25 members, most of them being Strickland’s extended family.5 Sterling conducted baptisms on three occasions, the first in 1913 at the end of the wharf. The second was held on an uninhabited isle in the atoll during a church picnic to celebrate the 1914 new year. His third baptism took place in the baptistry that they incorporated into their newly constructed church building,6 dedicated June 6, 1914, followed by a feast of fish and fowl in abundance.7 Strickland was elected their elder.8 His wife, Ruth, passed away in 1914.9

Pioneering Pukapuka

In 1917 Ita suggested to mission leaders that he sail further north to remote Pukapuka Atoll and introduce the inhabitants to the Advent message. The Eastern Polynesian Mission Council agreed to pay his expenses,10 and he left Aitutaki on October 24, 1917, sailing via Manahiki Atoll and disembarking at Pukapuka in early November.11

On Pukapuka Strickland saw some decide to be Seventh-day Adventists, including the London Missionary Society leader, Koteka, who received further instruction at Rarotonga and became a productive missionary himself.12 Strickland’s witness provoked opposition. On one occasion he was attacked by a group of antagonists, some friends coming to his rescue. He and mission superintendent Harold Wicks built a small church and dedicated it on July 18, 1919, and the following day Wicks baptized 16 of Strickland’s converts. A second baptism was held later.13 This church was reported in 1923 to have the largest membership in the Cook Islands Mission, with 22 baptized members and 42 attending Sabbath School.14

Return to Aitutaki

Having established the congregation on Pukapuka, Strickland returned to his home on Aitutaki in 1920. He brought with him a Pukapuka woman, whom he married.15 Until 1932 he held a missionary license, resuming a leading role in mission activities on Aitutaki.16 Charles Iti Strickland died in Reureu village on October 29, 1933, age 86.17 The last two decades of his life were wholeheartedly devoted to the Seventh-day Adventist faith, both as a layman and as a missionary away from his familiar homeland. Strickland was not ordained as a minister, but virtually adopted that role. His descendants continue work in the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the South Pacific.


“Aitutaki Atoll—Cook Islands.” Journal of Pacific Adventist History 8, no. 1 (September 2008).

“Cook Islands Marriages: Iti Strickland.” September 1, 2018. Retrieved from:|&marriage=Aitutaki,%20Cook%20Islands||0&self=iti|strickland|0|0&_=1549263573486.

George Sterling Memoirs. South Pacific Division of the General Conference Archives.Wahroonga, Box 3418, NSW. Folder: “Cook Islands.” Document: “George Sterling Memoirs.”

Lyndon, F[rank] E. “Eastern Polynesia.” The Missionary Leader, July 1923.

———. “Eastern Polynesian Mission.” Australasian Record, December 17, 1917.

———. “Entering New Fields.” The Missionary Leader, November 1919.

Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook. Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association. Years 1921–1932.

Sterling, Geo[rge] L. “Bukabuka (sic).” Australasian Record, February 25, 1918.

———. “Dedication of Church Building, Aitutaki.” Australasian Record, August 10, 1914.

———. “Good News from Aitutaki, Cook Islands.” Australasian Record, August 25, 1913.

Strickland, Mata Ngatamaine, et al. “The ‘Stricklands’ from the Pacific.” Pacific Tours. Retrieved from

Wicks, [Harold B. P.]. “Bukabuka (sic), Cook Islands.” The Missionary Leader, April 1920.


  1. “Cook Islands Marriages: Iti Strickland,”, September 1, 2018, accessed February 3, 2019,|&marriage=Aitutaki,%20Cook%20Islands||0&self=iti|strickland|0|0&_=1549263573486.

  2. “Aitutaki Atoll—Cook Islands,” Journal of Pacific Adventist History 8, no. 1 (September 2008): [40].

  3. George Sterling Memoirs, South Pacific Division of the General Conference Archives, Wahroonga, Box 3418, NSW (Folder: “Cook Islands”; Document: “George Sterling Memoirs”).

  4. Ibid.

  5. Geo[rge] L. Sterling, “Good News from Aitutaki, Cook Islands,” Australasian Record, August 25, 1913, 4, 5.

  6. George Sterling Memoirs.

  7. Geo[rge] L. Sterling, “Dedication of Church Building, Aitutaki,” Australasian Record, August 10, 1914, 2, 3.

  8. Geo[rge] L. Sterling, “Bukabuka [sic],” Australasian Record, February 25, 1918, 3.

  9. “Cook Islands Marriages: Iti Strickland.”

  10. F[rank] E. Lyndon, “Eastern Polynesian Mission,” Australasian Record, December 17, 1917, 3, 4.

  11. Sterling, “Bukabuka [sic].”

  12. F[rank] E. Lyndon, “Entering New Fields,” The Missionary Leader, November 1919, 4.

  13. [Harold B. P.] Wicks, “Bukabuka [sic], Cook Islands,” The Missionary Leader, April 1920, 6, 7.

  14. F[rank] E. Lyndon, “Eastern Polynesia,” The Missionary Leader, July 1923, 2.

  15. George Sterling Memoirs.

  16. E.g., “Eastern Polynesian Mission,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1932), 107.

  17. “Cook Islands Marriages: Iti Strickland.”


Hook, Milton. "Strickland, Charles Iti (1847–1933)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. January 29, 2020. Accessed June 18, 2024.

Hook, Milton. "Strickland, Charles Iti (1847–1933)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. January 29, 2020. Date of access June 18, 2024,

Hook, Milton (2020, January 29). Strickland, Charles Iti (1847–1933). Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved June 18, 2024,