The tiny Pacific nation of Cook Islands plans to change its name to drop the reference to the British explorer Captain James Cook in favour of a title that reflects its “Polynesian nature”.
The group of small islands, about 1,900 miles northeast of New Zealand, was spotted by Captain Cook in the 1770s and became a British protectorate in the late 1800s. Since 1965, it has been autonomous but electively deemed to be in free association with New Zealand.
The Cook Islands government initially set up a committee to find an indigenous name that would sit alongside its existing title. But the committee members backed abandoning the honour to Captain Cook and adopting a standalone name in the local Cook Islands Maori language.
“When the committee members, which include Cook Islands historians and people with deep traditional knowledge, met we decided it was time we change the name of the country,” committee chairman Danny Mataroa told AFP.
Mark Brown, the deputy prime minister, supported the change but said it would need to involve the nation’s 12,000 residents. In 1994, the nation held a referendum to change the name to Avaiki Nui but the proposal was resoundingly defeated.