Niue - Encyclopedia

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NIUE (SAVAGE ISLAND or Niue-Fekai, as the natives call it), an island in the South Pacific Ocean, 14 m. long by Io m. wide, in 1 9 ° 10' S., 169° 47' W. The entire island is an old coral reef upheaved 200 ft., honeycombed with caves and seamed with fissures. The soil, though thin, is, as in other limestone islands, very rich, and coco-nuts, tara, yams and bananas thrive. There is an abundant rainfall, but owing to the porous nature of the soil the water percolates into deep caves which have communication with the sea, and becomes brackish. The natives, a mixed Polynesian and Melanesian people of Samoan speech, are the most industrious in the Pacific, and many of the young men go as labourers to other islands. The consequent minority of men has been destructive of the sexual morality of the women, which formerly stood high. The natives are keen traders, and though uncouth in manners when compared with their nearest neighbours, the Tongans and Samoans, are friendly to Europeans. Their hostility to Captain Cook in 1774, which earned from him the name of Savage for the island, was due to their fear of foreign disease, a fear that has since been justified. The population (4079 in 1901) is slightly decreasing. The natives are all Christians, and the majority have learned to read and write, and to speak a little English, under the tuition of the London Missionary Society. They wear European clothes. The island became a British protectorate on the 10th of April 1900, and was made a dependency of New Zealand in October 1900, the native government, of an elected "king" and a council of headmen, being maintained. In 1900 there were thirteen Europeans on the island. The exports are copra, fungus and straw hats, which the women plait very cleverly.

See T. H. Hood, Notes of a Cruise in H.M.S. "Fawn" (Edinburgh, 1863); J. L. Brenchley, Jottings during the Cruise of the "Curacoa" (London, 1873); B. H. Thomson, Savage Island (London, 1902).

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