Constitution Day in Niue

October 19 is Constitution Day in Niue (NEW-ay). Niue is an island country in the South Pacific. Its land area is about 261 square kilometres (101 sq mi) and its population was about 1,600 in 2016.

Niue is a self-governing state in free association with New Zealand, which conducts most diplomatic relations (but not all) on its behalf. Niueans are citizens of New Zealand, and Queen Elizabeth II is her head of state in her capacity as Queen of New Zealand.

Niue was “discovered” by Europeans in the 18th century. During the era in which European countries were forcibly colonizing lands all over the globe, the Niue chiefs and rulers sent a letter to Queen Victoria in 1889 asking her to “take possession of the land lest some other nation would.” The British did not initially take up the offer, but in 1900 the Cook Islanders asked for annexation including Niue. In a document dated 19 October 1901, the “King” and Chiefs of Niue consented to “Queen Victoria taking possession of this island.

In 1994 New Zealand restored self-government in Niue after a referendum. The options were independence, self-government, or continuation as a New Zealand territory. The majority selected self-government. Robert Rex, ethnically part European, part native, was appointed the first premier, a position he held until his death 18 years later. Rex became the first Niuean to receive a knighthood in 1984.

10-19-18


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