Demos support House of Ariki on name change

Tuesday March 19, 2019 Written by Published in Politics

The Democratic Party is supporting the House of Ariki decision not to change the name Cook Islands, but add a traditional Maori name that truly reflects the people and culture.


Democratic Opposition leader Tina Browne says having an indigenous name first followed by Cook Islands would most likely be seen as more acceptable by the majority of Cook Islanders.

“We were giving cautious support to the proposed complete name change for the Cook Islands.

It’s a sensible decision for the House of Ariki to return to the original idea proposed by Pa Ariki to replace the papa’a-coined words of Kuki Airani with something that we Cook Islanders can really identify with and is derived from our native language.”

Browne added she is aware of widespread resistance to the name Cook Islands being dropped completely.

The Democratic Party will support whatever the majority of Cook Islanders decide on the issue and the best method of gauging the national mood is to have a referendum, she says.

At this point in time, Browne believes there must be emphasis placed on educating Cook Islanders living at home on the history of the 15 islands, how they came to be grouped and howv the name came to be used.

It is widely felt that a 1990s referendum to change the name of the Cook Islands to Avaiki Nui failed because of resistance to change, people fearing it would impact negatively on the country.  “Many people have contacted the Democratic Party opposition to say that there are far more pressing issues that we should be focussing on at this time rather than changing the name of our country.”

Browne says comments have been made that resourcing and upgrading outer islands schools is seen as being more important.

Along that same line of thought, Browne says teaching Cook Islands history, how our 15 islands came to be grouped and named after English sea captain James Cook by a Russian cartographer Adam von Krusentern is essential.

A little background written by Cook Islander Liam Kokaua is reprinted here with his permission to shed light on the history of the Cook Islands name.

“Captain Cook did give some of our islands a collective name, but he didn’t name them after himself, he named what is now the southern Cook Islands the “Hervey Islands” after a British Admiral in 1773.

This name only applied to the southern islands (From Mangaia in the south to Palmerston in the north).  The name Hervey Islands remained popular until 1824 when the islands were renamed “The Cook Islands” by the Russian cartographer Adam von Krusenstern, in honour of Captain Cook who had died in 1779.

So yes while we are named after and bear the legacy of Cook, we were actually given that name by a Russian!

                - Democratic Party

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