On this Day:

On June 11, 1901, the Cook Island were included within the boundaries of the Colony of New Zealand, having been previously annexed as British Territory in 1900.

The Cook Islands contain 15 islands in the group spread over a vast area in the South Pacific. The majority of islands are low coral atolls in the Northern Group, with Rarotonga, a volcanic island in the Southern Group, as the main administration and government centre.

The main Cook Islands language is Rarotongan Māori. There are some variations in dialect in the ‘outer’ islands.

The Cook Islands are named after Captain James Cook, who visited the islands in 1773 and 1777, although Spanish navigator Alvaro de Mendaña was the first European to reach the islands in 1595. The Cook Islands became aligned to the United Kingdom in 1890, largely because of the fear of British residents that France might occupy the islands, as it already had Tahiti.

In 1900 the Federal Parliament was abolished and in 1901 the boundaries of New Zealand extended to include the Cook Islands. The Federal Council of Ariki which had the right to make \”Federal ordinances\” was established, with the Resident Commissioner as President of the Council and Makea Ariki as Chief of Government.

Early Settlers of the Cooks

It is thought that the Cook Islands may have been settled between the years 900-1200 CE. Early settlements suggest that the settlers migrated from Tahiti, to the northeast of the Cooks. The Cook Islands continue to hold important connections with Tahiti, and this is generally found in the two countries’ culture, tradition and language. It is also thought that the early settlers were true Tahitians, who landed in Rarotonga (Takitumu district). There are notable historic epics of great warriors who travel between the two nations for a wide variety of reasons. The purpose of these missions is still unclear but recent research indicates that large to small groups often fled their island due to local wars being forced upon them. For each group to travel and to survive, they would normally rely on a warrior to lead them. Outstanding warriors are still mentioned in the countries’ traditions and stories.

These arrivals are evidenced by an older road in Toi, the Ara Metua, which runs around most of Rarotonga, and is believed to be at least 1200 years old. This 29 km long, paved road is a considerable achievement of ancient engineering, possibly unsurpassed elsewhere in Polynesia. The islands of Manihiki and Rakahanga trace their origins to the arrival of Toa Nui, a warrior from the Puaikura tribe of Rarotonga, and Tepaeru, a high-ranking woman from the Takitumu or Te-Au-O-Tonga tribes of Rarotonga. Tongareva was settled by an ancestor from Rakahanga called Mahuta and an Aitutaki Ariki & Chief Taruia, and possibly a group from Tahiti. The remainder of the northern islands, Pukapuka (Te Ulu O Te Watu) was probably settled by expeditions from Samoa.

Early European Contact

Spanish ships visited the islands in the 16th century; the first written record of contact between Europeans and the native inhabitants of the Cook Islands came with the sighting of Pukapuka by Spanish sailor Álvaro de Mendaña in 1595, who called it San Bernardo (Saint Bernard). Portuguese-Spaniard Pedro Fernández de Quirós made the first recorded European landing in the islands when he set foot on Rakahanga in 1606, calling it Gente Hermosa (Beautiful People).

British navigator Captain James Cook arrived in 1773 and 1777. Cook named the islands the ‘Hervey Islands’ to honour a British Lord of the Admiralty. Half a century later, the Russian Baltic German Admiral Adam Johann von Krusenstern published the Atlas de l’Ocean Pacifique, in which he renamed the islands the Cook Islands to honour Cook. Captain Cook navigated and mapped much of the group. Surprisingly, Cook never sighted the largest island, Rarotonga, and the only island that he personally set foot on was the tiny, uninhabited Palmerston Atoll.

The first recorded landing by Europeans was in 1814 by the Cumberland. Trouble broke out between the sailors and the Islanders and many were killed on both sides.

The islands saw no more Europeans until missionaries arrived from England in 1821. Christianity quickly took hold in the culture and remains the predominant religion today.

In 1823, Captain John Dibbs of the colonial barque Endeavour made the first official sighting of the island Rarotonga. The Endeavour was transporting Rev. John Williams on a missionary voyage to the islands.

Brutal Peruvian slave traders, known as blackbirders, took a terrible toll on the islands of the Northern Group in 1862 and 1863. At first, the traders may have genuinely operated as labour recruiters, but they quickly turned to subterfuge and outright kidnapping to round up their human cargo. The Cook Islands was not the only island group visited by the traders, but Penrhyn Atoll was their first port of call and it has been estimated that three-quarters of the population was taken to Callao, Peru. Rakahanga and Pukapuka also suffered tremendous losses.

British Protectorate

The Cook Islands became a British protectorate in 1888, due largely to community fears that France might occupy the territory as it had Tahiti. On 6 September 1900, the leading islanders presented a petition asking that the islands (including Niue “if possible”) should be annexed as British territory. On 8–9 October 1900, seven instruments of cession of Rarotonga and other islands were signed by their chiefs and people, and a British proclamation issued at the same time accepted the cessions, the islands being declared parts of Her Britannic Majesty’s dominions.

These instruments did not include Aitutaki. It appears that, though the inhabitants regarded themselves as British subjects, the Crown’s title was uncertain, and the island was formally annexed by Proclamation dated 9 October 1900. The islands were included within the boundaries of the Colony of New Zealand in 1901 by Order in Council under the Colonial Boundaries Act, 1895 of the United Kingdom. The boundary change became effective on 11 June 1901, and the Cook Islands have had a formal relationship with New Zealand since that time.

Recent History

In 1962 New Zealand asked the Cook Islands legislature to vote on four options for the future: independence, self-government, integration into New Zealand, or integration into a larger Polynesian federation. The legislature decided upon self-government. Following elections in 1965, the Cook Islands transitioned to become a self-governing territory in free association with New Zealand. This arrangement left the Cook Islands politically independent, but officially remaining under New Zealand sovereignty. This political transition was approved by the United Nations. Despite this status change, the islands remained financially dependent on New Zealand, and New Zealand believed that a failure of the free association agreement would lead to integration rather than full independence.

New Zealand is tasked with overseeing the country’s foreign relations and defence. The Cook Islands, Niue, and New Zealand (with its territories: Tokelau and the Ross Dependency) make up the Realm of New Zealand.

After achieving autonomy in 1965, the Cook Islands elected Albert Henry of the Cook Islands Party as their first Prime Minister. He led the country until 1978 when he was accused of vote-rigging. He was succeeded by Tom Davis of the Democratic Party.

On 11 June 1980, the United States signed a treaty with the Cook Islands specifying the maritime border between the Cook Islands and American Samoa and also relinquishing the US claim to the islands of Penrhyn, Pukapuka, Manihiki, and Rakahanga. In 1990, the Cook Islands signed a treaty with France which delimited the maritime boundary between the Cook Islands and French Polynesia.

On June 13, 2008, a small majority of members of the House of Ariki attempted a coup, claiming to dissolve the elected government and to take control of the country’s leadership. “Basically we are dissolving the leadership, the prime minister and the deputy prime minister and the ministers,” chief Makea Vakatini Joseph Ariki explained. The Cook Islands Herald suggested that the ariki were attempting thereby to regain some of their traditional prestige or mana. Prime Minister Jim Marurai described the take-over move as “ill-founded and nonsensical”. By June 23, the situation appeared to have normalized, with members of the House of Ariki accepting to return to their regular duties (per Wikipedia).

First, a Joke:

Three girls are stuck on an island.

They find a lamp and a genie comes out of it. He grants them each one wish.

The brunette girl wishes to go home and see her family. *poof* shes gone.

The redhead wishes also go go home to see her family. *poof* shes gone.

The genie comes to the blonde girl and sees that she is crying.

He asks “why are you crying?” She responds “I wish my friends were back”.

Second, a Song:

Courtesy of Explified and YouTube.com, here is the video “Cook Islands – 13 Interesting Facts!” Hello Viewers! Welcome to this brand-new video by Explified where we explore the Cook Islands. The Cook Islands, a self-governing island country in the South Pacific Ocean, comprises 15 islands. Home to vivid blue lagoons, sandstone churches, swaying palms, locals with exuberant smiles, a lush mountainous landscape and a bustling café and bar scene, they offer plenty of ways to pass the time. Watch this video until the end to know about some surprising facts about these small islands. We hope you enjoy!

Thought for the Day:

“All up, this was a dream holiday. The beauty of the island and its wonderful wonderful people is something that will stay with us forever. It exceeded all of our expectations and I hope one day in the future we can return.” – budala, Sydney


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Have a great day!

Dave & Colleen

© 2022 David J. Bilinsky and Colleen E. Bilinsky

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