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Land Tenure in the Cook Islands

By discovery and settlement

By discovery and settlement

It was by this means that the first settlers obtained possession of the island. How they subdivided and exploited their lands is no longer known. However, tradition records that they came from somewhere in the area now known as French Polynesia, and it is therefore likely that they brought with them a system of land tenure which fell within the same broad category as that brought by the later migrants from the same culture area.

Lands thus acquired could be retained only so long as no other settlers arrived, or if they did, then only so long as the lands could be defended. From what little is known of this very early phase, it seems that the original colonists were successful in retaining considerable segments of the island despite competition from later migrants. With the advent of Tangiia and Karika, however, they page 85 relinquished a large proportion of their land rights along with their political sovereignty, and during the Tangiia-Karika regime, the whole island was formally parcelled out to one chief or another. No longer could land rights be acquired by the simple expedient of discovery and settlement alone.