Welcome to Faahi tapu he Vagahau Niue – Niue Language Week, Sunday 17 October to Saturday 23 October 2021. To mark this, Special Collections are pleased to provide online access to a petition sent by Togia-Pule-toaki, the Patu-iki or King of Niue, to Sir George O’Brien, the British High Commissioner for the Western Pacific, in October 1899.1
This petition was among several Niuean language documents from the Western Pacific Archives selected for a Language Week display that was cancelled due to lockdown.
The petition asks that Niue be declared a British protectorate and a British Representative sent to the island to help control the sale of land and alcohol, ensuring the peace and prosperity of tagata Niue. An English translation of the petition and an accompanying letter was provided by the missionary Reverend Francis Lawes.
Togia’s predecessor, King Fata’aiki, had also petitioned the High Commissioner in November 1887 and again in February 1895. Each time he asked that Queen Victoria “Stretch out her strong arm that Niue Fekai may lean upon it”.2
Both requests by King Fata’aiki were politely declined by the British who at the time were bound by an 1886 treaty with Germany.3 That treaty outlined each nation’s colonial interests in the Western Pacific and defined Niue as neutral territory which neither nation could claim.
By late 1899, however, ongoing negotiations between Britain, Germany, and the United States over the division of Samoa meant Britain was no longer bound by the earlier agreement. Togia mentions this, and his predecessor’s appeals, in his 1899 petition and states that ‘Niue still desires the protection of Great Britain’.
This petition contributed to Niue becoming a British Protectorate in 1900. The official proclamation, a copy of which is also held in Special Collections, was signed on 19 October 1900.4 By June 1901 however, Niue had been annexed with the Cook Islands by New Zealand. Today Niue is self-governing in ‘free association’ with New Zealand and tagata Niue are New Zealand citizens.
- View King Togia-Pule-toaki’s petition and related correspondence in Manuscripts and Archives.
- Find Niuean language resources, including an early vocabulary by the Reverend Frances Lawes, in the Catalogue.
- Learn more about Niuean language, customs, and history in the Journal of the Polynesian Society.
Katherine Pawley, Special Collections
Featured image: New Zealand Premier Richard Seddon and King Togia of Nuie, May 1900. Seddon, R.J. (1900). The Right Hon. R.J. Seddon’s (the premier of New Zealand) visit to Tonga, Fiji, Savage Island and The Cook Islands, May, 1900. New Zealand government printer. New Zealand Glass Case 919 S44 and Nineteenth Century Collections Online.
1. Island of Niue (Savage Island): Appeal for British protection. From Lawes, reverend F. (London Missionary Society), at Niue. Western Pacific Archives. MSS & Archives 2003/1, WPHC 4/IV, 222/1899.
3. Declaration between the Governments of Great Britain and the German Empire relating to the Demarcation of the British and German Spheres of Influence in the Western Pacific signed at Berlin, April 6, 1886.
4. Proclamation of British Protectorate over Nieue (sic), or Savage Island. 19th October, 1900. (Five copies).1900. Western Pacific Archives. MSS & Archives 2003/1, WPHC 8/VI, file 4.