The push to abandon the islands’ colonial past follows a committee meeting in January, led by tribal leader Pa Marie Ariki, to choose a new name. Previous attempts to change the name of Cook Islands — a self-governing territory with political links to New Zealand have been unsuccessful. At that time citizens voted to keep the name Cook Islands in a national referendum in 1999. Historians believe Cook Islands were first inhabited by Polynesians from Tahiti in the 6th century. In 1595 the name “San Bernardo” or Saint Bernard was given.
The first European to step foot on the islands, Portuguese navigator Pedro Fernandes de Queiros, renamed the region “Gente Hermosa” or Beautiful People. Captain Cook visited in 1773 and 1777 and renamed the islands “Hervey Islands”. “Cook Islands” became the current name around the 1820s. More than 60 names are now being considered. The update should reflect the country’s history, its religious beliefs and its people. However, the name-change may take a while. It will be a new referendum and the process could take two years.