Niue is an island nation in the South Pacific Ocean. It is
commonly known as the "Rock of Polynesia”. Niue is 2,400 kilometers (1,500
mi) northeast of New Zealand in a triangle between Tonga to the southwest, the
Samoas to the northwest, and the Cook Islands to the southeast. The land area
is 260 square kilometers (100 sq mi) with about 1,400 people who are
Niue was settled by Polynesians from Samoa. Until the beginning of the 18th century,
there appears to have been no national government or national leader. Before
then, chiefs and heads of families exercised authority over segments of the
population. Around 1700 the concept and practice of kingship appear to have
been introduced through contact with Samoa or Tonga.
The first European to sight Niue was Captain James Cook in
1774. Cook made three attempts to land on the island but was refused permission
to do so by the Polynesian inhabitants. He named the island "Savage
Island" because, legend has it, the natives that "greeted" him
were painted in what appeared to Cook and his crew to be blood. However, the
substance on their teeth was that of the hulahula, a native red banana.
In 1887, King Fata-a-iki, who reigned from 1887 to 1896,
offered to cede sovereignty to the British Empire, fearing the consequences of
annexation by a less benevolent colonial power. The offer was not accepted
Niue was a British protectorate for a time, but the UK's
direct involvement ended in 1901 when New Zealand annexed the island.
Independence in the form of self-government was granted by the New Zealand
parliament with the 1974 constitution.
Though self governing, Niue is in free association with New
Zealand, and lacks full sovereignty. Queen Elizabeth II is Niue's head of
state. Most diplomatic relations are conducted by New Zealand on Niue's behalf.
Seventy-five percent of the population of Niue belong to the
"Ekalesia Nieue" (a national Congregationalist body). Other religions present in
the island include "Latter-day Saints" (mormonism) and Catholicism.