Pukapuka's closest prehistoric associations appear to be with Tonga and other islands to the west, but there was later a lot of contact with islands to the east.

Pukapuka was the first of the Cook Islands that Europeans sighted.

In sports competitions between the villages, the villagers use the names and flags of these countries.

Although the island has a well-maintained airstrip, flights from Rarotonga are very infrequent.

Some lineages wanted to kill the newcomers in revenge for an incident that had happened a month earlier, but Vakaawi, chief of Yālongo lineage, protected them.

In the following days the island accepted Luka's Christian message, largely because of an encounter when two dead people were apparently raised back to life. William Wyatt Gill found most of the people on the island converted to Christianity.

The traditional names for these villages are Takanumi, Kotipolo and Te Lāngaikula.

In daily life the islanders frequently call them Tiapani (Japan), Malike or Amelika (United States) and Ōlani (Holland) respectively.

On this small island an ancient culture and distinct language has been maintained over many centuries.

The traditional name for the atoll is Te Ulu-o-Te-Watu ('the head of the stone'), and the northern islet where the people normally reside is affectionately known as Wale ('Home').

In order to distinguish them, we named the eastern one 'Peron and Muir' [Motu Kō], the one to the north 'Dorr' [Pukapuka], and the name of 'Brown' was given to the third [Motu Kotawa], after one of our officers." Péron believed that they were the first to discover the island, mostly because the people were so afraid of them.