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More than a millennium ago, Polynesians from Tahiti, Hawaii and Samoa are believed to have discovered and began inhabiting what later became known by European settlement as the Cook Islands. Tahitians and Samoans brought their distinct style of singing and ceremonial rituals to their Rarotongan settlements. One of the legacies of this early influx of Polynesians is Cook Island dance, which resembles the Hawaiian hula. Each body motion corresponds to an actual word or idea reflected in the music, sung in the Maori language.
The Western world made contact with Rarotonga in the late 1700s, when Captain Cook's voyage passed the Cook Islands. Over a century later, Great Britain began officially governing the Cooks, but transferred this responsibility only a few years later to another of its protectorates – New Zealand. 1965 saw the culmination of the Cook Islands independence movement and the implementation of self-government. However, by voluntary agreement, New Zealand currently handles defense of the islands and other institutional arrangements.
Thus, Rarotonga spent a relatively long time untouched and unknown, but has been in close contact with England and New Zealand for the past two hundred years now. English is the most commonly spoken language, but most Cook Islanders speak the Maori language, as well. Throughout its rich history, Rarotonga has consistently managed to blend the old and the new into its unique concept of Polynesian culture.