The Cook Islands (Māori: Kūki 'Āirani) are an archipelago and an autonomous territory of New Zealand, consisting of 15 islands spread over 2,200,000 square kilometers of ocean, in central Polynesia, between French Polynesia to the east and Samoa to the west. The most important island is Rarotonga, on which the capital Avarua stands. These tiny islands, inhabited by the Māori since the early Middle Ages, were discovered by Europeans during the 19th century, before becoming a colony of Great Britain. Later on, the islands became a part of New Zealand, and remained so after the country's independence after the Great War.
The islands were left largely untouched by colonization, and the vast majority of the population is Māori in ethnicity. As an autonomous territory, they are largely independent from the Neozelandese mainland: the most important sectors of the economy are fishing, pearl harvesting, agriculture and tourism.