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The Koutu Nui

For centuries, Cook Islanders have used natural plant-based remedies. Now the natural products development company CIMTECH is drawing on this traditional wisdom to bring new products to market, bringing employment and profits to the remote South Pacific islands.

For 1500 years, the social and cultural practices of the Cook Islands Polynesians thrived until Britain colonised the South Pacific island group in the 1880s. Named after the British navigator Captain James Cook, the Cook Islands were ruled for centuries by high chiefs (Ariki) and their Koutu Nui, a system of subordinate chiefs and captains.

Although missionaries brought Christianity to the 15 islands as early as 1821, it wasn't until British rule outlawed "black magic" – all non-Christian cultural practices – that traditional healing and medicine practices were threatened by the threat of imprisonment and monetary fines.

In 1965, the Cook Islands became a self-governing parliamentary democracy with recognition of the traditional practices of the Ariki and Koutu Nui finally established in law.

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Regrettably, the Cook Islanders had lost some of their cultural and traditional lore due to 150 years of colonisation, religious conversion and the rule of British law. However, a strong oral history tradition among the Koutu Nui has retained some knowledge of indigenous medicine and healing practices.