According to local belief the first people to settle on Nui were the Samoans. The Captain of the canoe was Peau, a man from Manono. He was accompanied by his father, Tuilaepa, and several other men named Fatu, Toloao, Logona, Vailao and Talulu, as well as a number of women. When they arrived they found the land fertile and uninhabited. Their first settlement they named Fenuatapu (sacred land). This is now the name of the southernmost islet, on which the main settlements is still located.
Sometime later a famine struck the land and many families migrated to Nanumea. There they found more to live on but they never stopped thinking about Nui.Thus it was that a few generations later, Laulau, a descendant of Pau decided to return to Nui. On arriving at Nui he found the land once more prosperous, but the people were reserved. He explained to them that most of the early inhabitants had migrated to Nanumea because of famine but it was not until he mentioned the names of the few Samoan families who had stayed behind on Nui that they accepted him as a kinsman. His knowledge of his ancestors also helped him to be recognized by the new generation and at length he was received with great honour. Laulau later married Kogie and their descendants still live on the island.
Shortly after the famine a baurua (canoe) named Toantebike from Tabiteuea in Kiribati arrived on the island. The newcomers attacked the islanders and beat them, killing many of the men and taking the women as wives. Among those who married Samoan women were Tataua and Teikakei.
A few years later a second baurua arrived from Nonouti. This time, the navigator was a woman called Nei Ruruobu, with Ten Tinti as her assistant. Others who travelled on this canoe were Te Beiatoa, Te Batiare, Nei Manei, Ruabeia and Tenikonibuti. They landed at the northern end of the island and made a settlement there called Terikiai. Shortly afterwards Ten Tinti married Ruabeia so Nei Ruruobu left the island, leaving the others behind.
The third baurua which reached Nui from Kiribati was called Tebauoti. It came from Beru. Ten Nawei was the navigator and he was accompanied by his wife Nei Miango. Others who came on this baurua were Temanibuke, Tereke and Teubeatabu, and their respective wives, Kerentia, Tabaria and Nei Bobentawa.
These stories of early settlement may contain some fanciful elements but are still true, at least in the sense that they attest the fact that the people of Nui - together with their culture and languages - are of mixed Samoan and Kiribati ancestors. Polynesia and Micronesia met and mingled at Nui. From their meetings emerged the three great family circles into which Nui society is still organized - Tekaubaonga, Tekaunimara and Tekaunibiti.
Captain Davis visited Nui on 29th July, 1892. He recorded the name of the King as Taloka and the name of the trader as Martin Kleis, a Dane trading for Henderson and Macfarlane. The population was observed to be 387.
When whalers and, later, coconut oil and copra traders reached Nui in the nineteenth century they found the people living peacefully. One trader, Martin Kleis chose to settle there permanently. He exchanged such goods as tobacco, clothes, meat, biscuits, knives and axes for copra, which he then sold to Henderson, Macfarlane and Co. Despite this activity, he belonged to the community rather than to the company, as was shown when he was adopted by a couple named Talaika and Takilopa. When they died they left him a share of their land; these properties still belong to his descendants of whom there are many on the island.
By his first wife, Nei Pono whom he later divorced, he had two daughters named Velemine and Vika; and by his second, a son and a daughter, named Sianola and Kilaisi. He also had a son Ten Kilisi by a third woman called Lipeuea.