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Niuē-fekai (or Savage) Island and its People


page 2

BY way of preface, I may say that I resided on Niuē Island in 1901 for nearly four months, having gone there at the request of His Excellency the Earl of Ranfurly, Governor of New Zealand, to introduce a form of government somewhat more consonant with British ideas than the existing one, a proceeding which was rendered necessary by the annexation of this and many other islands to New Zealand under a Proclamation made by H.R.H. the Duke of Cornwall and York at Auckland on the 11th June, 1901. The position I occupied during my visit, as Government Resident, put me in a favourable position to obtain information from the natives, but although possessing a fair knowledge of several of the dialects of the great Polynesian language, that of Niuē is so divergent from the others that it took me some time to acquire a sufficient knowledge of it to enter freely into communication with the natives. Hence the sketchy nature of many of the notes I have preserved. I am very greatly indebted to my friend the Rev. F. E. Lawes for a large amount of matter contained in the notes to follow; but for his knowledge of the language and the people, I should have acquired but little matter relating to their customs. So soon as I could speak freely to the chiefs in their own language and they found that I was interested in their history, &c., I began to find that there was a great deal of interesting information to be obtained, but my early departure prevented my availing myself fully of this. It is to be hoped that my successor as Resident, on acquiring the language, will make use of his exceptional opportunities of recording as much as possible of the history and beliefs of this people before the day is nast for so doing

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Niue-Fekai From the Admirally chart

Niue-Fekai From the Admirally chart

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On the whole, the history of the people obtained is unsatisfactory, for the Niuē people differ very much from most branches of the race, in that they have few historical traditions, and, what is really very strange in a branch of the Polynesian race, no genealogies of consequence, and hence there is lacking the means of fixing chronologically the events which will be described. I have entered at some length into the description of the fauna and flora of the Island, having taken special care to obtain the correct native names. Failing traditions, I look on these names, when compared with those in other islands, as affording the surest way to discover the origin of the people. And, moreover, though many of the notes herein printed may not have much interest at the present day, the time will come when the descendants of the present inhabitants of Niuē will be glad to have even the little that I have gathered about their forefathers.