Proud to be known as Cook Islanders

Tuesday March 12, 2019 Published in Letters to the Editor
Proud to be known as Cook Islanders

Dear Editor,

A recent documentary I watched made reference to the “Lapita Tribe of people” from the island of Papua New Guinea, a hardy race of people who travelled the vast oceans thousands of years ago.


Scientists believe the Lapita were likely responsible for not only sailing throughout the length and breadth of this massive ocean, but also for contributing to the peopling of much of this vast and expansive region known as the Pacific Ocean, replete with its many individual islands.

And it also stands to reason that the spreading of the “Lapita DNA” throughout the Pacific region, (which has been verified by scientific experts), would also include our paradise we call home and which  the world has always known of as the Cook Islands, our tiny Pacific Islands nation made up of a blended race of peoples from many of our neighbouring islands, those both near and far.

So, as far as the supposed “custom and culture” argument goes in this current name change debate, our origins virtually make us out as “tropical fruit salads” with DNA from all around us ... making us what exactly?! Well naturally, for all intents and purposes, it makes us Cook Islanders!

The reality is this - a high majority of our people spread wide and far, identify as proud Cook Islanders, which was proven by the outcome of the 1994 Referendum. And like many others who also share this following sentiment, “I hope this is not a matter of false pride, where the minority who support this name change, actually believe that it is really they who are right, while the majority who voted “kare!” (that’s us, people) as far as they are concerned, simply ... wrong!”  Hard-case, eh?!

Yes, Ellena Tavioni was right in her CI News letter in last Friday’s paper: “Protect our traditional customs”, in her frustrated criticism of our many traditional Ariki leaders, who’d rather focus on this inconsequential name change waste of time debate, instead of addressing the recent Privy Council decision regarding land rights issues in our country.

As Tavioni stated:  “...the most important part of our custom - which is the rights to our lands in connection to our blood ancestors - has been compromised and eliminated like nothing. Like we are nothing.  As I write, I haven’t heard one traditional leader condemn the above, the one most important thing they should be looking out for.”  She further adds: “The above is what the people of the Cook Islands should be debating and condemning, not a new name for our country which, in the end, wouldn’t even improve our lives one bit.” 

Yes, Ellena Tavioni is fully justified in her criticism of our traditional leaders who really raised the ire of many Cook Islanders with their name change fixation, while they obviously dropped the ball regarding the Privy Council decision.

As a result, it is an irrefutable fact that regionally, historically, globally and for many years, we have always been known as “Cook Islanders”, and very proud Cook Islanders at that, so very keen and  eager to share with manuhiri our tiny paradise we also very proudly call our home.

And like the many Cook Islanders (aka Cookies) in Aotearoa, Australia, those around the world and here in our Te Ipukarea paradise, and our whanau back in the days  who bravely and resolutely fought and died for us last century in the great wars of WWI and  WWII, well, they fought proudly as Cook Islanders, from the Cook Islands! And like the many Cook Islanders who have since passed over, they did so in those final moments departing their loved whanau, friends and Te Ipukarea paradise as ... yes, Cook Islanders.

And that inherent mana of coming from our home we call the Cook Islands, will never change!

So, this talk of changing our country’s name, a name clearly many of us hold to be very dear and of special significance to us, and where we are known all around the world as Cook Islanders from the Cook Islands, you bet this issue is contentious! 

It has always been and will always be contentious, particularly as far as a small minority of people goes (obviously those who are supporting this name change call!), who disagree with the bigger majority of people who in 1994 wisely, proudly and resoundingly said “no!” to that Name Change Referendum, and who will do so again should there deign to be another waste-of-time-and-money-referendum forced upon our people!

After all, it is Cook Islanders who are known to be “the Warriors Drummers who drum” during all their NRL Warriors rugby league matches; then of course, there is our special pride of place we hold  for our unique Cook Islands dance culture which never fails to generate huge excitement, and known  the world over as coming from  the tiny paradise islands in the South Pacific, called the Cook Islands!

And of course, there is also our super-friendliness as “Kia Orana!” Cook Islanders cleverly marketed and fostered to the global tourism industry, where our many manuhiri know us to be the “friendliest people on the planet living in paradise, with its beautifully clean and pristine environment”. And of course, tourists globally book their tickets to come to the Cook Islands, and are then proudly and happily entertained by ... yes that’s right, by our always and very friendly and proud Cook Islanders!

Yes, and finally in Saturday’s CI News, the “Street Poll” questioned eight people if they supported the change of name for our country. Not surprisingly, all eight replied emphatically, “E kare!!!” Really, nothing more to say ...

So perhaps it’s better for you to focus on the Privy Council case instead, as Ellena Tavioni has pointed out, because this is one very important issue your people will be more than happy to help you fight, unconditionally!

Papa Williams

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