A Little History
As the Island prepares to celebrate 43 years of home rule, we recall a little of the events leading up to that point in our history.
On Saturday 19th October 1974 at a ceremony at the Government Green in Alofi, the then Governor-General Sir Denis Blundell, in the presence of an estimated 75% of the island’s population, read the Proclamation of Self Government. The Niue National Anthem – Ko e Iki he lagi – was used officially for the first time but there was no Niue flag to hoist. The island had to wait until the following year when the Niue Assembly enacted a legislation to make the flag that we know so well today the official flag for the country. Records show that it was designed by Lady Rex.
Following the ceremony at the Government Green – now the Commercial Centre – the festivities shifted to the Alofi Village Green where a huge fale launiu was erected for the occasion. Ever the masters for over-catering, the people of Niue had heeded the call of the leaders and proceeded to load the tables with so much food, it literally had to be stacked in layers. Chickens, umu roasted puaka, paala, alili in coconut cream, vahakukla, faikai hahave, polo fua, takihi, takihi ufi, faikai ulihega, polo luku, lu, peka, lupe, baked ika hiki – this was island cuisine at its best.
Seated on the main table were leaders from neighbouring islands – from the Cook Islands, Tonga, Samoa and Fiji. New Zealand was represented by Prime Minister Bill Rowling who had announced earlier at the Government Green that his government would build a new Fale Fono; Robert Rex the island’s first Premier, had reciprocated by gifting the Residency at Tapeu to New Zealand.
This was a celebration, it was time for the island to kick back it’s collective heels and party. It was time to put aside differences – and there were a few – and join the festivities. Leading an impressive line-up of entertainment were the trainees from the Teachers Training College, then came the villages. When it was the turn of the Cook Islands community to entertain, Albert Henry leapt to his feet and emptied his wallet! All performances were excellent but a special mention must be made of the village of Avatele.
In the self-government debate in the Assembly, Avatele had made it known through their representative Pita Halo that the village did not support self-government and voted accordingly. The expectation was that Avatele would henceforth take a back seat in any national event. When it was known that Avatele was to perform at the first Constitution Celebrations, the island was aghast. But Misileki the master politician knew exactly what he was doing. If his village of birth was not prepared to formally accept self-government, he was going to do it another way. By appealing to his own family in the village, he was making an offer that they could not possibly refuse. In effect he was asking his own family to take the village by the hand and to publicly walk through the front door and accept the new status.
To this day, some would say that they have never seen Avatele dance with so much heart, with so much feeling. Alofa Lino’s lyrics for the lologo ta me has reverberated for 43 years and will no doubt continue to do so: Ko au ne tu fakamua he fohe.
From Protectorate to Annexation
It was fitting that some of the celebrations in 1974 was held at the Alofi village green, for it was here that Sir Basil Thomson, Her Britannic Majesty’s special envoy to the Western Pacific, had declared Niue to be a British Protectorate on 21 April 1900. It had taken three petitions to the British government; the last such petition was made by King Togia in 1899, to make Niue a Protectorate. Thomson was on his way to Tonga to proclaim the Kingdom a Protectorate so why not make the short cruise to Niue to do the same. And so in the presence of King Togia and a large gathering of his loyal subjects, Basil Thomson read the proclamation, accompanied by the thunderous roar of a Royal Salute fired from the guns of the HMS Porpoise anchored in Alofi Bay.
Unbeknown to the people of Niue, but in keeping with the practice of the time, the Big Powers were carving up the Pacific. Lord Ranfurly, governor of New Zealand, had received instructions from the Secretary of State for Colonies in London, to proceed to the Cook Islands and Niue and annex these territories to Britain.
On 19 October 1900, King Togia was once more summoned to Alofi but this time, he was not prepared to make the decision on his own and called on the Iki from all villages to make the decision collectively. After several hours of discussion an agreement was finally reached; Lord Ranfurly read the Treaty of Annexation, the Union Jack was hoisted, the Marines saluted and the guns of HMS Mildura fired a royal salute. Niue had become part of the British Empire.
King Togia and his Iki were not to know that six and a half months later, on 11 June 1901, by Royal Assent, the governor in New Zealand issued a Proclamation that Niue and the Cook Islands were to be, henceforth, administered by the Parliament of New Zealand. King Togia protested and rightly so, that his island was annexed to Great Britain. It made little difference; Niue was now well and truly a territory of New Zealand; it was to remain thus until the 19 October 1974.
According to Margret Pointer in her book Niue 1774 – 1974, apart from King Togia, the Iki who signed the Deed of Cession were: Niuloa [Alofi], Sosene [Avatele – our sources say it’s Tosene rather than Sosene], Kapagahemata [Tamakautoga], Pokihega [Tafiti,] Puletagaloa [Hakupu], Tagaloailuga [Liku], Lagahetau [Tamalagau], Kautapu [Mutalau], Hipa [Tamahatokula], Ikenei [Uhomotu – Ikinei?] and Matiu [Makefu]