Meet and Greet Our People
The mixture of magical and mystical Cook Islands is shrouded with legends and traditions that have been handed down from past generations since the arrival of the Polynesians in the year 800 AD. The Northern Group of the islands are thought to be coming from Samoa and Tonga and the Southern Group largely come from the Society Islands and the Marquesas. These people are part of the great migration of Polynesians from around the Pacific which began as early as 1500BC.
Raiatea in the Society Islands was established around 800 to 1000 AD as the centre of cultural and religion in the Pacific. These people dispatched voyagers to Hawaii, the Tuamotu Archipelago and also the many islands of Cooks Islands to explore. They were the people who brought the cultural tradition, religion, and the language called Maori.
Cook Islanders are born sea lovers. Ancient Polynesians are known as the finest seafarers of the Pacific, travelling across the vast ocean searching for new lands to explore. Their bravery, skills at sea, and strength far outpace those explorers from Portugal or Spain, the English or the Dutch.
The first Polynesians expertise in navigation is in their genes. It’s not surprising considering that the Pacific is their natural playground. The popularity of sailing with the canoe or in a paddle boat today reflects the times of the great vakas landing on the island’s’ shore.
Cook Islanders are closely linked in culture and language to the Maori people in New Zealand, the Maohi of French Polynesia, the Rapuni of Easter Island and the Kanaka Maoli of Hawaii. About 87% of the people in the Cook Islands are of Polynesian origin.
The people in the northernmost island of Pukapuka have heritage connected to the Samoan people. Some of the Cook Islanders come from other ancestry brought by European voyagers that have explored the islands. One example is the unique genealogy in Palmerston that has some English speaking people, thanks to William Marsters. Pukapuka has its own language which is connected to Samoan rather than Maori. It’s natural that most of the inhabited islands of the Cook Islands have their own dialect.
Great Entertainers of the Pacific
Entertaining visitors is the natural charm of the Cook Islanders. With their friendly, welcoming, and hospitable approach to visitors, they are considered great entertainers of the Pacific and regarded as the best dancers and drummers in Polynesia. Competition in festivals produces the most outstanding performer in the island. The most popular festival in the Cook Islands is the Te Maeva Nui Festival which participated by people from other outer islands making fun with dancing, drumming, singing, joining float parades, and other sports activities.
Strong Family Bonds
The inherent character traits of genuine care of every islander toward their family are apparent no matter what background the islander has. The family bond in the island is vital and everyone is a part of a clan that is connected to the tribal chiefs (ariki).
The beauty and charm of the Cook Islands is matched by the friendliness and hospitable characteristics of the islanders to all island visitors.