Cook islanders are an indigenous group that inhabits the Cook Islands, a country in association with New Zeeland. Cook islanders are approximately 19,500, and 79% of them are Polynesian (Sissons 15). Below, the major characteristics of Cook islanders’ society will be addressed in detail.
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Individuality is the main feature of Cooks islanders’ culture, which is explained by the fact that the nation inhabits fifteen different islands that are separated by considerable distances. Thus, people in those islands have rather different traditions, rituals, beliefs, and a way of thinking. However, a variety of common traits can be also observed in a number of areas including art, music, and religious beliefs. Generally, Cook islanders are cheerful people with a positive outlook and the desire to make the best of their life, which explains their love of dancing and singing. Tourists from all over the world notice this tendency along with a remarkable level of hospitality in the very first hours of their visit to the country.
The majority of Cook islanders are Christians including about 75% of those who associate themselves with the Protestant Cook Islands Christian Church, and 25 % of people belonging to the other Churches and denominations such as Catholics, Adventists, Baptists, and many more (Sissons 60). However, it should be noted that Christianity acquired its popularity among Cook islanders relatively not long ago, in the XIX century. In the earlier periods, the people of the Cook Islands were idolaters, and they worshiped the natural powers and even animals.
Nowadays, Cook islanders are modern people with active life positions and the most diversified interests. Many of them tend to build a career in business and politics, and they leave the islands to realize their potential, which is the main reason for the current demographic crisis in the Cook Islands. Those people, who prefer staying in their birthplace, lead a simple life engaging in businesses, traditional for this territory such as tourism, fishing, and retail sales (Sissons 98). Along with providing for their families, the islanders are engaged in activities, peculiar for the inhabitants of Oceania such as spending much time in the open air with their families, associating with their neighbors, and working with the land.
A Short Excurse to the History of Cook Islanders’ Struggle for Self-determination
In 1595, the written history of the Cook Islands began from the account regarding the signing of the agreement between the first Europeans, who came to visit the territory, and the local inhabitants (Sissons 27). During the period from 1773 to 1779, the islands were explored by the delegation, headed by famous Captain James Cook. In 1800, the islands of this group were titled the Cook Islands to honor their renowned explorer.
The Cook Islands experienced their first colonization in 1843 when the British government established its firm influence in the region. At first, the British conducted a modest policy in the territory, but at the end of the XIX century the pressure of the regime became unbearable, and islanders decided to overthrow their colonists. They managed to do so in 1900 by means of support from New Zeeland and Australia. Since the beginning of the XX century, the Cook Islands became a country in close association with New Zeeland. Colonial influences in the country are not significant; however, they are majorly seen in the area of the economy because New Zeeland continues solving major economical issues for the Cook Islands.
Sissons, Jeffrey. Nation and Destination Creating Cook Islands Identity, 2nd ed., The Cook Islands: Institute of Pacific Studies and the University of the South Pacific Centre in the Cook Islands, 2005. Print.
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