A Quick Guide to the Cook Islands People
Hailing from Polynesian ancestry, the people of the Cook Islands have a proud Cook Islands Maori heritage but bring a contemporary face to Polynesia. Learn about the population, ethnicity and where the people of the Cook Islands live in this complete guide to the Cook Islands population.
To learn about the cultural aspects of the local people, be sure to head over to A Traveller’s Guide to the Cook Islands Culture.
What Do You Call People From the Cook Islands?
Quite simply, a person from the Cook Islands and/or a citizen of the Cook Islands is called as a “Cook Islander”. Many Cook Islanders will go a step further and refer to themselves in relation to the specific islands they are from, such as Rarotongan, Aitutakian, Mangaian, Atiuan, Pukapukan, etc. In terms of ethnic groups, Cook Islanders are known as Cook Islands Maori, which is also the name of the main official language of the Cook Islands.
The Population of the Cook Islands
According to statistics in 2020, the population of the Cook Islands is 17,900. The ethnic makeup of the Cook Islands, according to the 2016 census, is made up of the following ethnic groups:
- Cook Island Maori – 78.2%
- Part-Maori – 7.62%
- Other – 14.18%.
It’s worth noting that there are more Cook Islanders outside of the Cook Islands, particularly in New Zealand with the New Zealand 2018 census stating 80,532 Cook Islanders or of Cook Islands descent. There are also around 30,000 Cook Islanders living in Australia.
For more interesting facts about the people of the Cook Islands, check out the 20 Fun Facts About Rarotonga & the Cook Islands.
The Cook Islands’ Main Ethnic Groups
The Cook Islands’ population is made up of one main ethnic group, Cook Islands Maori. The small minority of other ethnic groups in the Cook Islands reside on the islands mainly due to immigration.
What Ethnicity are Cook Islanders?
Cook Islanders or Cook Islands Maori are of Polynesian ancestry. Southern Group Cook Islanders generally originated from Tahitian settlers and are closely related to New Zealand Maori and Tahitian Ma’ohi. Northern Group Cook Islanders trace their ancestry to settlers from Samoa and Tonga.
Learn more about the history of settlement in the Cook Islands in A Brief History of Rarotonga & the Cook Islands.
Where Do Cook Islanders Live?
Cook Islanders live across the Cook Islands, as well as overseas, particularly in New Zealand where the country is in free association with.
Cook Islands Population per Island
The Cook Islands consists of 15 main islands, 12 of which are inhabited. Around 74.7% of the population lives on the largest island of the Cook Islands, Rarotonga. The rest who reside in the Cook Islands are scattered across the other islands, in order of population:
- Aitutaki – 11%
- Mangaia – 2.9%
- Pukapuka – 2.5%
- Atiu – 2.5%
- Mauke – 1.7%
- Penrhyn – 1.3%
- Manihiki – 1.2%
- Mitiaro – 0.9%
- Rakahanga – 0.5%
- Nassau – 0.5%
- Palmerston – 0.3%
Cook Islands Town Population
While the population of Rarotonga’s urban centres is steadily growing, around 4,900 people live in the Avarua district, most of the population live in districts and sub-districts/tribal lands locally known as “tapere”. Learn more about the most populated in The 5 Biggest Towns & Villages in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands.
Cook Islanders Overseas
Many Cook Islanders migrate overseas, particularly to New Zealand and Australia. There are more Cook Islanders living in New Zealand and Australia than there are in the Cook Islands.
The Cook Islander Lifestyle
To oversimplify, the Cook Islander lifestyle surrounds family and extended family. It is not unusual for children to live with grandparents, nieces and nephews and why locals often call fellow Cook Islanders “mamas”, “papas” and “aunties”. Hell, even you as a visitor might be called “aunty” or “uncle” by a local kid, but don’t worry, you haven’t just adopted a small child; making you feel welcome is all part of the Cook Islander psyche.
Another aspect of the Cook Islander lifestyle is enjoying grand ceremonies, especially feasting. Many Cook Islanders travel overseas to work, living pretty much Western lifestyles. But when they come home, it’s usually to spend time relaxing with family in their little paradise. Industries in the Cook Islands, on the other hand, mostly surround tropical horticulture and tourism.
Of course, there’s a lot more to the Cook Islander lifestyle and psyche, so take a look at A Traveller’s Guide to the Cook Islands Culture to learn more.
Frequently Asked Questions About the People of the Cook Islands
What are the questions most people have about the people of the Cook Islands? See if your own question is answered here!
Who are the Natives of Cook Islands?
The natives of the Cook Islands are Cook Islands Maori, indigenous Polynesians originating from French Polynesia and even Asia depending on how far back you want to look!
What Nationality are Cook Islanders?
Cook Islanders are the nationality of the Cook Islands.
What Do Cook Islanders Call Themselves?
Cook Islanders call themselves “Cook Islanders” or “Cook Islands Maori”. Many Cook Islanders will go a step further and refer to themselves in relation to the specific islands they are from, such as Rarotongan, Aitutakian, Mangaian, Atiuan, Pukapukan, etc.
What Nationality is Rarotonga?
The nationality of Rarotonga is Cook Islander, part of the country of the Cook Islands.
Are Rarotongans Maori?
Rarotongans are from the ethnic group Cook Islands Maori.
More About the People of the Cook Islands
That’s it for our guide to the people of the Cook Islands. For more about the Cook Islands people, check out the following guides:
- A Traveller’s Guide to the Cook Islands Culture
- The Guide to the Religions in the Cook Islands
- 10 Best Cultural Activities in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands
Finally, make the most of experiencing the culture when visiting by following the advice in How to Have an Authentic Cook Islander Experience.