By Roland Bourdeix, Malua Solinuu. Valerie Saena Tuia and Alofa Leuluaialii

This website returns the information collected during four scientific visits conducted in 2001, 2010, 2012 and 2017 on behalf the Ministry of Agriculture of Samoa, the International Coconut Genetic Resources Network, the Secretatiat of the South Pacific Community, the Global Crop Diversity Trust, Bioversity International, CIRAD (French Centre for Agricultural Research and Development), the Coconut Industry Development for the Pacific (CIDP project) and the Darwin Initiative "Saving Pacific Coconuts".

Early Samoa, Niu afa and the naming of Niue Island

Niue  is an island nation in the South Pacific Ocean. It is commonly known as the "Rock of Polynesia", and natives of the island call it "the Rock" for short. Niue is 2,400 kilometres  northeast of New Zealand in a triangle between Tonga to the southwest, the Samoas to the northwest, and the Cook Islands to the southeast. The land area is 260 square kilometres (100 sq mi) with about 1,400 people who are predominantly Polynesian.

Niue had several earlier names. One tradition is that the island was renamed after a chief’s sons and their followers travelled to their ancestors’ original homeland in Sàmoa, Manu‘a. There they were welcomed and entertained as kin. When they decided to return to Nukututaha, the chief of Manu‘a, Moa, gave them two special coconuts and explained why each one was special. On arrival back at Nukututaha, the chief’s sons held up these special coconuts and said “Ko e Niu è!” (Behold, the coconut!).

The coconuts were planted. One is the niu pulu, the coconut grown especially for making the sennit rope that is used in constructing traditional buildings and making canoes. The other coconut is the niu tea, the medicinal coconut. Its juice, husk, leaves, and just about every other part are used as medicine for a variety of ailments as well as for drinking and as food. According to this tradition, the name of the island was changed to Niue to honour the arrival of these two special varieties of coconut and to remember the chief of Manu‘a, who gifted them.

2010. Haia ! An Introduction to Vagahau Niue. Teacher’s guide and support materials learning languages serie. Published for the Ministry of Education by CWA New Media, Box 19090, Wellington 6149, New Zealand. ISBN 978 0 478 34123 2. 385 p.