Voyagers from Samoa first settled on Niue around A.D. 900 and a second main group of settlers came from Tonga around 1500. With only one reliable source of fresh water, conflict was high on the island. There was continued contact with both Samoa and Tonga, and customs from those islands heavily influenced Niuean culture, including the formation of an island-wide kingship system in the early 1700s. These kings, or patu-iki, were elected by Niueans. In 1774, British explorer James COOK abandoned attempts to land on the island after several unsuccessful tries, and he named it Savage Island because of the warlike appearance of the Niueans. Missionaries arrived in 1830 but were also largely unsuccessful at staying on the island until 1846, when a Niuean trained as a Samoan missionary returned to the island and provided a space from which the missionaries could work. In addition to converting the population, the missionaries worked to stop the violent conflicts between Niueans and helped establish the first parliament in 1849.
In 1889, King FATAAIKI and other chiefs asked the UK for protectorate status, a request that was repeated in 1895. The UK finally agreed in 1900 and King TOGIA-PULU-TOAKI formally ceded Niue that year. In 1901, Niue was annexed to New Zealand and included as part of the Cook Islands. Niue’s remoteness and cultural and linguistic differences with the Cook Islands led New Zealand to separate Niue into its own administration in 1904. The island became internally self-governing in 1974; it is an independent member of international organizations but is in free association with New Zealand, which is responsible for defense and foreign affairs.
Economic opportunities in Niue are sparse. The population has trended downwards over recent decades, with substantial emigration to New Zealand. In 2004, a cyclone destroyed much of the southern part of the capital, Alofi, and left about 15% of the population homeless. Many chose not to rebuild and instead moved to New Zealand (2,400 km to the southwest), where approximately 90% of all ethnic Niueans live.
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NOTE: The information regarding Niue on this page is re-published from the 2023 World Fact Book of the United States Central Intelligence Agency and other sources. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of Niue 2023 information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about Niue 2023 should be addressed to the CIA or the source cited on each page.
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