The first European explorer to attempt a landing on Niue was Captain James Cook in June 1774. He and his crew were forcefully repelled by parties of fearsomely attired men uttering blood curdling screams and brandishing spears with the purpose of repelling these visitors, for fear that they would bring diseases – a fate that befell other Pacific cultures that were more welcoming of European explorers.
Hastily leaving after little actual combat, Cook called the place “Savage Island,” a name that appeared on maps into the twentieth century.
At the time of Cook’s arrival, Niue had already been populated for several centuries by Tongans in the south, Cook Island Maori in the west and Samoans in the north. The people of the north were known as motu and those of the south were known as tafiti. They were staunch enemies, and the forests of the island were laced with tracks used by raiding parties searching for food and women to steal.
The Niuean language is related to other western Polynesian languages, such as Samoan and Tongan, with slight pronunciation differences between the north and the south. Most Niueans today speak Niuean and English.
Source: Niue by Charles Cooper. Reed Children’s Books, 2000. ISBN 1869488490