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3274 1823

Cook Islands Flag

Europeans first encountered the Cook Islands in 1595 when they were discovered by Spanish navigator Alvaro de Mendana. Captain Cook, for whom the islands are named, visited them several times between 1773 and 1777. They became a British protectorate in 1888 and were annexed to New Zealand in 1901. The islands have been largely self-governing since 1965.

Since 1979 the Cook Islands have used the British Blue Ensign with fifteen white five-pointed stars in a circle in the fly. Unlike the New Zealand stars, the Cook Islands stars are in white as an expression of peace. The stars represent the 15 islands in the Cook Islands group and are arranged in a circle to indicate that no one island is more important than any other. The use of the Blue Ensign refers to the British links of the Cooks, formerly as part of, and now as an independent state in free association with, New Zealand.

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