Pacific News | Renaming the Cook Islands

April 18, 2019

The Cook Islands is mulling a change of its colonial-era name to a new one that reflects its indigenous Polynesian identity. The move follows calls by indigenous activists to drop the colonial moniker - which remembers Captain James Cook, who visited the islands in the 1770s - in favour of a name in the Maori tongue.

A committee tasked with finding a new name for the country has received tentative support from the government, ahead of a possible referendum on the issue. The committee, convened in January by a paramount chief, Pa Marie Ariki, is deliberating on a name in Cook Islands Maori, which is similar to New Zealand's indigenous Māori language. The Cook Islands Deputy Prime Minister, Mark Brown, said the body had a long way to go but had his support.

"I'm quite happy to look at a traditional name for our country which more reflects the true Polynesian nature of our island nation," he said.

The committee, which is evaluating 60 possible names from public submissions, hopes to shortlist the top contender by April, which will be sent to the government for further action. The names being considered by the committee had to incorporate a number of elements important to Cook Islanders, including Christianity, Māori heritage and national pride.

Previous name change efforts in the Cook Islands fell short, including a national referendum in the mid-1990s, when a majority of Cook Islanders voted to keep the country's name.

Sources: The Cook Islands is looking for a new, less colonial name, James Griffiths, CNN, 6 March 2019 | Cook Islands mulls name change, SBS News, 5 March 2019 | Cook Islands government backs name change body, Radio New Zealand, 5 March 2019 | Edited by Kendall Benton-Collins.