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Kingdom of Tonga

Pule'anga Tonga

CAPITAL: Nuku'alofa, Tongatapu

FLAG: The flag, adopted in 1862, is crimson with a cross of the same color mounted in a white square in the upper left corner.

ANTHEM: Koe Fasi Oe Tu'i Oe Otu Tonga (Tongan National Anthem) begins "'E 'Otua Mafimafi Ko homau 'Eiki Koe" ("O Almighty God above, Thou art our Lord and sure defense").

MONETARY UNIT: The Tongan pa'anga (t$) of 100 seniti is a paper currency at par with the Australian dollar. There are coins of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50 seniti, and 1 and 2 Tongan pa'angas, and notes of ½, 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50 pa'angas. t$1 = us$0.50720 (or us$1 = t$1.9716) as of 2004.

WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: The metric system is the legal standard, but some imperial and local weights and measures also are employed.

HOLIDAYS: New Year's Day, 1 January; ANZAC Day, 25 April; Crown Prince's Birthday, 4 May; Independence Day, 4 June; King's Birthday, 4 July; Constitution Day, 4 November; Tupou I Day, 4 December; Christmas, 2526 December. Movable religious holidays include Good Friday and Easter Monday.

TIME: 1 am (the following day) = noon GMT.


The Tonga archipelago, also known as the Friendly Islands, lies scattered east of Fiji in the South Pacific Ocean. Nuku'alofa, the capital, is about 690 km (430 mi) from Suva, Fiji, and about 1,770 km (1,100 mi) from Auckland, New Zealand. Consisting of 171 islands of various sizes, only 45 of which are inhabited, Tonga has a total area of 748 sq km (289 sq mi), including inland waters as well as Teleki Tokelau and Teleki Tonga (formerly the Minerva Reefs). Comparatively, the area occupied by Tonga is slightly more than four times the size of Washington, DC. It extends 631 km (392 mi) nnessw and 209 km (130 mi) esewnw. The major islands are Tongatapu and 'Eua, Ha'apai, Vava'u, Niuatoputapu and Tafahi, and Niuafo'ou. Tonga's total coastline is about 419 km (260 mi).

The capital city of Nuku'alofa is located on Tongatapu.


The islands run roughly northsouth in two parallel chains; the western islands are volcanic and the eastern are coralline encircled by reefs. At 10,800 m (35,400 ft) deep, the Tonga Trench is one of the lowest parts of the ocean floor. The soil on the low-lying coral islands is porous, being a shallow layer of red volcanic ash, devoid of quartz, but containing broken-down limestone particles.

The volcanic islands range in height to a maximum of 1,033 m (3,389 ft) on Kao. Fonuafo'ou (formerly Falcon Island), about 65 km (40 mi) northwest of Nuku'alofa, is famous for its periodic submergences and reappearances, as a result of earthquakes and volcanic action. There are few lakes or streams. Tofua, Vava'u, Nomuka, and Niuafo'ou each have a lake, and there are creeks on 'Eua and one stream on Niuatoputapu. Other islands rely on wells and the storage of rainwater to maintain a water supply.


The climate of Tonga is basically subtropical. Because the islands are in the southeast trade wind area, the climate is cooler from May to December, when the temperature seldom rises above 27°c (81°f). The mean annual temperature is 23°c (73°f), ranging from an average daily minimum of 10°c (50°f) in winter to an average maximum of 32°c (90°f) in summer. Average annual rainfall, most of which occurs from December to March during the hot season, is 160 cm (63 in) on Tongatapu, 257 cm (101 in) on Niuatoputapu, and 221 cm (87 in) on Vava'u. The mean relative humidity is 80%.


Some original forest growth can be found on islands in the Vava'u and Ha'apai groups. Tree species include coconut palms, and paper mulberry. Tropical bushes and flowers are abundant, including hibiscus and datura. A wide variety of fish are found in the coastal waters. Tonga is famous for its flying foxes.


Agricultural activities in Tonga are exhausting the fertility of the soil. The forest area is declining because of land clearing, and attempts at reforestation have had limited success. Water pollution is also a significant problem due to salinization, sewage, and toxic chemicals from farming activities. The impurity of the water supply contributes to the spread of disease. The nation is also vulnerable to cyclones, flooding, earthquakes, and drought. The government has established a Water Master Plan to manage the nation's water resources for two decades. The National Development Plan is a more comprehensive attempt to address the nation's environmental concerns.

According to a 2006 report issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), threatened species included two types of mammals, three species of birds, two types of reptiles, four species of fish, two types of mollusks, and three species of plants. The Fiji banded iguana, and the loggerhead, green sea, and hawksbill turtles are endangered. The Tonga ground skink has become extinct. There has been some damage to the nation's coral reefs from starfish and from coral and shell collectors. Overhunting threatens the native sea turtle populations.


The population of Tonga in 2005 was estimated by the United Nations (UN) at 102,000, which placed it at number 178 in population among the 193 nations of the world. In 2005, approximately 5% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 39% of the population under 15 years of age. There were 104 males for every 100 females in the country. According to the UN, the annual population rate of change for 200510 was expected to be 1.8%, a rate the government viewed as satisfactory. Although the fertility rate was reported to be 3.9 births per woman, which was relatively high, ongoing emigration keeps the overall population growth rate lower. The projected population for the year 2025 was 137,000. The overall population density was 136 per sq km (352 per sq mi), but only 45 of the nation's 171 islands are inhabited.

The UN estimated that 33% of the population lived in urban areas in 2005, and that urban areas were growing at an annual rate of 1.90%. The capital city, Nuku'alofa, Tongatapu, had a population of 35,000 in that year. Two-thirds of the population live on the island of Tongatapu.


There is considerable movement toward the larger towns as population pressure on agricultural land increases. Some ethnic non-Tongans born on the islands migrate mainly to Fiji and New Zealand. Emigration by Tongan workers, both skilled and unskilled, has long been of concern to the government. In 1989 approximately 39,400 Tongans lived in the United States, Australia, and New Zealand. There are expatriate Tongan communities in Brisbane and Sydney (Australia), Auckland (New Zealand), San Francisco (United States), and on Hawaii. Persons wishing to reside in Tonga must obtain a government permit; permission is granted only to those taking up approved employment. Immigrant settlement is not encouraged because of the land shortage. There were an estimated 2,000 migrants in Tonga in the year 2000. In that same year the total population of Tongans in the United States was 17,270. Emigration is a significant factor in the economy due to large in-flows of remittances. In 2002 worker remittances were $65 million. The net migration rate in 2005 was estimated as zero migrants per 1,000 population. The government views the migration levels as satisfactory.


The Tongans are a racially homogeneous Polynesian people. Less than 2% of the population is of European, part-European, Chinese, or non-Tongan Pacific island origin.


Tongan, a Polynesian language not written down until the 19th century, is the language of the kingdom, but government publications are issued in both Tongan and English, and English is taught as a second language in the schools.


Over 98% of Tongans are Christian. According to the last official census in 1996, 41% of the population were members of the Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga (Methodist), 16% were Roman Catholics, 14% were members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, 12% were of the Free Church of Tonga, and 17% belonged to other churches, including Seventh-Day Adventists, the Assembly of God, the Tokaikolo Church (a local offshoot of the Methodist Church), Anglicans, Baha'is, Muslims, and Hindus.

Though freedom of religion is provided for in the constitution and there is no state religion, the constitution does also stipulate that Sunday is the official Sabbath day. As such, the government restricts the operation of a large number of businesses on Sunday. The Tongan Broadcasting Commission also maintains a policy which restricts broadcasts of any religious tenets that are not within the mainstream Christian tradition.


In 2002, Tonga had 680 km (423 mi) of roadways, of which 184 km (114 mi) were paved. There are no bridges in Tonga, but three islands in the Vava'u group are connected by two causeways. Tonga has no railways.

Nuku'alofa and Neiafu are the ports of entry for overseas vessels. In 2005, the merchant fleet consisted of 29 ships of 1,000 GRT or more, some of them foreign owned and registered as a flag of convenience, totaling 136,977 GRT. Work on extending the port at Nuku'alofa began in 1985. The Pacific Forum Line and the Warner Pacific Line maintain scheduled service from Australia and New Zealand to Tonga via the Samoas and other islands, and cargo ships visit the group from time to time for shipments of copra. Internal sea connections are maintained by the Polynesia Triangle and by the Shipping Corp. of Polynesia.

In 2004, there were an estimated six airports, but only one of which (as of 2005), had a paved runway. Fua'Amotu International at Tongatapu is Tonga's principal airport. Air Pacific, Air New Zealand, Polynesian Airlines, and Hawaiian Air operate scheduled international flights from Fua'Amotu. The government-owned Friendly Island Airways has scheduled flights between Tongatapu, Ha'apai, 'Eua, Vava'u, and Niuatoputapu. In 2001 (the latest year for which data was available), about 56,800 passengers were carried on scheduled domestic and international airline flights.


Since the Tongan language was not written down until the 19th century, the early history of Tonga (which means "south") is based on oral tradition. Hereditary absolute kings (Tu'i Tonga) date back to Ahoeitu in the 10th century. Around the 14th century, the twenty-third king, Kau'ulufonua, while retaining his sacred powers, divested himself of much of his executive authority, transferring it to his brother Ma'ungamotu'a, whom he thereafter called the Tu'i Ha'atakalaua. About the middle of the 17th century, the seventh temporal king, Fotofili, transferred the executive power to his brother Ngala, called the Tu'i Kanokupolu, and thereafter the powers gradually passed into the hands of the latter and his descendants. According to tradition, in the mid-19th century, upon the death of the then Tu'i Tonga, those powers were conferred upon the 19th Tu'i Kanokupolu, Taufa'ahu Tupou, founder of the present dynasty.

European chronicles disclose that the island of Niuatoputapu was discovered by the Dutch navigators Jan Schouten and Jacob le Maire in 1616. In 1643, Abel Tasman discovered Tongatapu, and from then until 1767, when Samuel Wallis anchored at Niuatoputapu, there was no contact with the outside world. Capt. James Cook visited the Tongatapu and Ha'apai groups in 1773 and again in 1777, and called Lifuka in the Ha'apai group the "friendly island" because of the gentle nature of its peoplehence the archipelago received its nickname, the Friendly Islands. It was in the waters of the Ha'apai group that the famous mutiny on the British ship Bounty occurred in 1789. The first Wesleyan missionaries landed in Tonga in 1826.

The first half of the 19th century was a period of civil conflict in Tonga, as three lines of kings all sought dominance. They were finally checked during the reign of Taufa'ahu Tupou, who in 1831 took the name George. By conquest, George Tupou I (r.184593) gathered all power in his own hands and united the islands; he abolished the feudal system of land tenure and became a constitutional monarch in 1875. Meanwhile, by the middle of the century, most Tongans had become Christians, the great majority being Wesleyans, and the king himself was strongly influenced by the missionaries.

In the latter part of the century, there were religious and civil conflicts between the Wesleyan Mission Church and the newly established Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga. After the dismissal of the prime minister, the Rev. Shirley Waldemar Baker, in 1890, the new government allowed full freedom of worship. Ten years later, during the reign (18931918) of George II, a treaty of friendship was concluded between the United Kingdom and Tonga, and a protectorate was proclaimed. During World War II, Tongan soldiers under Allied command fought the Japanese in the Solomon Islands, and New Zealand and US forces were stationed on Tongatapu, which served as an important shipping point.

Two more treaties of friendship between the United Kingdom and Tonga were signed in 1958 and 1968, according to which Tonga remained under British protection, but with full freedom in internal affairs. On 4 June 1970, Tonga ceased being a British protectorate and became an independent member of the Commonwealth of Nations, with King Taufa'ahau Tupou IVwho had succeeded to the throne upon the death of his mother, Queen Salote Tupou (r.191865)as head of state. The new status brought few immediate changes, apart from the fact that it added Tongan control of foreign affairs to self-rule in domestic matters.

In 1972, Tonga claimed the uninhabited Minerva Reefs (now Teleki Tokelau and Teleki Tonga), situated about 480 km (300 mi) southwest of Nuku'alofa, in order to prevent an Anglo-American corporation from founding an independent Republic of Minerva on the reefs in order to gain certain tax advantages.

Many of the government's strongest critics gained seats in the 1987 legislative elections; the unprecedented turnover was thought to reflect changing attitudes toward traditional authority. However, the traditional leaders continued in charge of the government, with Prince Fatafehi Tu'ipelehake elected as prime minister. The island's dissident pro-democracy movement, led by Akilisi Pohive, won the February 1990 general election, but it remained a minority within the legislature. A government scandal over selling Tongan passports to Hong Kong Chinese led to popular support for the opposition. Baron Vaea replaced Prince Fatafehi Tu'ipelehake as prime minister in August 1991. King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV organized the Christian Democratic Party in time for the 1993 election to provide greater coordination for his supporters and to weaken the democracy movement. However, pressure from the pro-democracy forces continued in the February 1993 general election when the People's Democratic Movement won six of the nine open seats.

Parliamentary elections were held in March 1999, when about 51% of eligible voters cast ballots, the lowest voter turnout in the country's history. Five of the nine members elected were from the Human Rights and Democracy Movement (HRDM). King Taufa'ahu Tupou IV appointed his youngest son, 41-year-old Prince Lavaka Ata Ulukalala prime minister in January 2000. When the previous prime minister retired, observers speculated that the king's oldest son, Crown Prince Tupouto'a, would be named prime minister. It is likely that Tupouto'a was passed over for the post because of his stated opposition to preserving the king's right to make lifetime appointments. His younger brother, who became the country's fourth prime minister since 1950, has been outspoken in his criticism of the country's democracy movement.

Fifty-two candidates ran for the nine people's representative seats in the legislature in March 2002; the HRDM won seven of the seats. In the 2005 elections, the HRDM took 70% of the vote and 7 of 9 open seats. Although the movement's improvement in electoral standing may signal popular support for democratic reform, it is seen as the king's prerogative to initiate change.

Tonga experienced a financial scandal in 2001, when the king's official court jester, Jesse Bogdonoff, an American businessman, invested $26 million in a government trust fund that subsequently disappeared. The money had been raised by the sale of Tongan citizenship and special passports to Asians, especially Hong Kong Chinese concerned with the transfer of Hong Kong to China. The $26 million represented more than half the government's annual budget. The Tongan government's lawsuit against Bogdonoff was settled in 2004.

On 22 July 2005, public workers declared Tonga's first national strike. The 47 day strike ended in early September, when the chairman of the Public Servants Association presented the king with a petition calling him to dismiss Prime Minister Prince Ulukalala Lavaka Ata and all 14 cabinet ministers. The petition also demanded a commission be established to review the constitution within one year, and called for a more democratic form of government, as well as the return of royal family-controlled government assets, including the internet domain address and the power company.

In October 2005 parliament voted to establish the National Committee of the Kingdom of Tonga for Political Reforms, with the goal of examining and improving Tonga's form of government. Committee members were to be drawn from the executive and legislative (both noble and commoner) branches of the government, as well as from the nongovernmental population.

On 15 December 2005, after 10 years of membership talks, Tonga became the 150th member of the World Trade Organization. As part of its accession agreement, Tonga agreed to cut its import tariffs and to open many of its vital services to foreign companies.


Tonga is an independent kingdom. According to the constitution of 1875, as amended, the government is divided into three main branches: the sovereign, Privy Council, and cabinet; the Fale Alea (Legislative Assembly); and the judiciary. The King-in-Council is the chief executive body, and the cabinet, presided over by the appointed prime minister, makes executive decisions of lesser importance. The prime minister is appointed for a life term. Law-making power is vested in the 30-member Legislative Assembly, which consists of 12 members of the cabinet sitting ex officio, 9 nobles elected to three-year terms by the 33 hereditary nobles of Tonga, and 9 representatives popularly elected to three-year terms. Sessions must be held at least once in every calendar year. Legislation passed by the Privy Council is subject to approval at the next meeting of the Legislative Assembly. Women voted for the first time in 1960, and the first woman was elected to the legislature in 1975. All literate citizens 21 years of age or older are eligible to vote.

In November 2003, the king approved amendments to Clause 7 of the constitution, which limited the press, thus effectively reducing freedom of speech. In October 2004, Chief Justice Webster found these amendments to be inconsistent with Clause 7, and therefore unconstitutional.

The next elections were to be held in 2008.


The Tonga People's Party (TPP), led by Viliami Fukofuka, and the pro-democracy Human Rights and Democracy Movements (HRDM), led by 'Akilisi Pohiva were the principal political parties active in 2003.


The islands are divided administratively into three districts: Vava'u in the north, Ha'apai in the center, and Tongatapu in the south. Ha'apai, Vava'u, and the outlying islands are administered by governors who are members of the Privy Council and are responsible to the prime minister. Minor officials perform statutory duties in the villages. Town and district officials have been popularly elected since 1965. They represent the central government in the villages; the district official has authority only over a group of villages.

Titles of nobility were first bestowed in 1875, and later in 1882, 1887, 1903, and 1923. With the hereditary titles were granted villages and lands.


The Supreme Court exercises jurisdiction in major civil and criminal cases. Other cases, heard in the Magistrate's Court or the Land Court, may be appealed to the Supreme Court and then to the Court of Appeal, the appellate court of last resort. The Privy Council has jurisdiction over cases on appeal from the Land Court dealing with titles of nobility and estate boundaries. With the ratification of the 1968 friendship treaty, UK extraterritorial jurisdiction lapsed, and British and other foreign nations became fully subject to the jurisdiction of the Tongan courts. The judiciary is independent of the king and the executive branch, although Supreme Court justices are appointed by the king. Criminal defendants are afforded the right to counsel and the right to a fair public trial is protected by law and honored in practice. The king may commute a death sentence. In addition, the court system consists of a court martial for the Tonga Defense Services, a court tribunal for the police force, and a court of review for the Inland Revenue Department.


The Tonga Defense Force was organized during World War II, became defunct in 1946 and was reactivated in 1952. It consists of a regular cadre and volunteers serving an initial training period, followed by attendance at annual training camps. Forces are organized into marines, royal guards, a navy, a police force, and a newly created air wing. The naval squadron consists of several fast patrol boats policing territorial waters.


Tonga was admitted to the United Nations on 14 September 1999. It participates in ESCAP and several nonregional specialized agencies, such as the FAO, UNCTAD, UNESCO, the World Bank, and WHO. Tonga is also a member of the Asian Development Bank, the Commonwealth of Nations, the ACP Group, G-77, the South Pacific Regional Trade and Economic Cooperation Agreement (Sparteca), the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), and Pacific Island Forum (formally called the South Pacific Forum). It has observe status in the WTO.

In environmental cooperation, Tonga is part of the Convention on Biological Diversity, the London Convention, the Montréal Protocol, MARPOL, the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, and the UN Conventions on the Law of the Sea, Climate Change, and Desertification.


The economy is largely agricultural and still contains a substantial nonmonetary sector. The principal cash crops are squash, fish, copra and coconut products, vanilla bean extract and bananas. Agricultural exports make up two-thirds of total exports. One third to one half of export earnings come from the sale of squash to Japan, though the main source of foreign exchange is remittances, followed by tourism. A proportion of food is imported and the economy remains dependent on external aid and remittances from expatriate Tongalese to offset its chronic trade deficit. It is estimated that there are more expatriates (over 100,000) than current citizens. Real GDP growth, which had peaked at 6.5% in fiscal year 1999/2000, fell to 0.5% in 2000/01, attributable to the global economic slowdown, and, in particular, its impact on tourism. The GDP growth rate in 2002 stood at 1.5% and at 1.9% in 2003.

In 2002, the year was ushered in by Tonga's worst cyclone since 1961, Cyclone Waka, which tore through the northern islands of Niuafo'ou and Vava'u on 3031 December 2001, destroying an estimated 90% of the crops. About 350 homes were destroyed, with another 750 homes, 23 schools, and numerous hospitals, churches, and other structures seriously damaged. Water supply, electricity, and communications were also severely disrupted, with total damage estimated at $50 million. Donor countriesprincipally New Zealand, Australia, French Polynesia, and the United Statesresponded with food aid and emergency assistance, as did several missions and charities. The government lifted import duties on construction materials. The net result was a slight uptick in real GDP growth in 2001/2001 to 1.5% despite the cyclone damage due to the stimulus given the construction industry as well as record high prices for squash and vanilla beans.

Another economic shock in 2002 was the discovery of the loss of most of the assets (about $26.5 million) from the Tonga Trust Fund (TTF) through failed investments and, perhaps, simple fraud, while under management by American businessmen. The assets came primarily from selling Tongan passports to nervous residents of Hong Kong before its reversion to Chinese rule in 1997.


The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that in 2005 Tonga's gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at $244.0 million. The CIA defines GDP as the value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a given year and computed on the basis of purchasing power parity (PPP) rather than value as measured on the basis of the rate of exchange based on current dollars. The per capita GDP was estimated at $2,300. The annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at 1.5%. The average inflation rate in 2002 was 10.3%. It was estimated that agriculture accounted for 23% of GDP, industry 13%, and services 64%.

According to the World Bank, in 2002 remittances from citizens working abroad totaled $62 million or about $611 per capita and accounted for approximately 42.7% of GDP.


Tonga's labor force in 1996, the last year reported, was 33,910. As of 1997 (the latest year for which data was available), approximately 65% of the workforce was engaged in agriculture. The unemployment rate in 1996 (the latest year for which data was available) was estimated at 13.3%.

The government has issued a labor code establishing a wage structure, a system of job classification, and provisions for workers' compensation. Holidays are prescribed by law. According to the constitution, it is not lawful to work, to play games, or to engage in trade on Sunday. Workers have the right, in theory, to form unions under the 1964 Trade Union Act, but as of 2002, none had been formed. Various government agencies and public enterprises offer vocational training.

Child labor is not used in the wage sector and is virtually nonexistent throughout the economy. The workweek is limited to 40 hours. There is no set minimum wage. Generally, labors laws are well enforced on the main island of Tongatapu but are more inconsistently enforced on the outer islands.


About 36% of Tonga is agricultural land, including small amounts of permanent pasture. With increasing population pressure on the land, more land is being intensively cultivated and less is available for fallow. The use of fertilizers, high-protein strains of corn, and similar methods to improve the efficiency of land use has become increasingly necessary.

According to the constitution of 1875, all the land in the kingdom belongs to the crown and cannot be alienated. Much of it, however, consists of hereditary estates that were bestowed upon various chiefs, who lease the lands to farmers at a nominal annual rent. Since 1890, the crown has been responsible for the collection of rents and the granting of allotments.

On reaching the age of 16, every Tongan male taxpayer is entitled under the constitution to a tax allotment of one api (3.34 hectares/8.25 acres). These allotments are hereditary, pass from generation to generation in accordance with the law of succession, and may not be sold. A tenant may be ejected for nonpayment of rent or for failing to comply with the planting regulations, under which every Tongan holder of a tax allotment is legally required to plant 200 coconut trees, which he must keep free from weeds. In recent years, however, population increases have made it impossible to guarantee the api to all those entitled to one.

Principal subsistence crops are yams, taro, sweet potatoes, and manioc. Estimated production in 2004 included coconuts, 58,000 tons; sweet potatoes, 6,000 tons; cassava, 9,000 tons; oranges, 1,000 tons; and bananas, 700 tons. Vanilla beans have become an important cash crop (130 tons in 2004), especially on Vava'u. Agricultural products accounted for 45% of exports in 2004.


Beef cattle are generally kept for grazing in coconut plantations to keep the undergrowth in check and to provide additional income. Every householder has several hogs, which generally are not sold but are used for feasts. Sheep were brought into Tonga in 1954 but did not thrive, and in 1956 the entire flock was slaughtered. Livestock in 2005 included 81,000 hogs, 12,500 goats, 11,400 horses, and 11,250 head of cattle.


Fish are abundant in the coastal waters, but the fishing industry is relatively undeveloped, and the supply of fish is insufficient to meet local demand; thus, canned fish has been imported in recent years. Principal species caught are tuna and marlin. The fish catch was 4,458 tons in 2003; exports of fish products were valued at almost $3.56 million that year.


Forestland covers about 5.5% of Tonga's total area, mainly on 'Eua and Vava'u, but this diminishing resource has not been efficiently exploited, and much wood for construction must be imported. Roundwood production in 2004 was 2,100 cu m (74,000 cu ft). There is a government sawmill on 'Eua. Charcoal is manufactured from logs and coconut shells.


Tonga had few known mineral resources. A limited amount of crushed stone is produced at local quarries.


Tonga has no proven reserves of oil, natural gas, coal or oil refining capacity.

Tonga is entirely dependent upon imports of oil, natural gas or coal to meet its hydrocarbon needs. In 2002, the country's imports and consumption of refined petroleum products each averaged 780 barrels per day. There were no recorded imports or consumption of natural gas or coal in 2002.

Tonga's primary energy source is electricity, all of it powered by fossil fuels. In 2002, the country's electric generating capacity totaled 0.008 million kW. Electric power output in that year totaled 0.034 billion kWh. Demand for electric power in 2002 was 0.032 billion kWh.


Encouragement of new industries was the goal of Tonga's eight five-year plans (19662008). Industries include the manufacture of concrete blocks, metal products, woolen knitwear, leather goods, furniture, soft drinks, soap, sports equipment, yachts, and paint. Ten-meter (33-foot) epoxy-veneer molded yachts are produced by Marine Tonga, a Tongan-German joint venture. At the government-backed Small Industry Center in Nuku'alofa, more advanced products are made, including refrigerators, jewelry, bicycles, toys, furniture, wheelbarrows, and mini-excavators; other consumer goods are assembled for use locally and in neighboring countries. A small but growing construction sector developed in response to the inflow of relief monies following Cyclone Waka, which hit during the last two days of 2001, and the need for construction services for hospitals, schools, wharves, etc. Long-established industries are coconut processing, sawmilling, and local handicrafts. Nuku'alofa is the only commercial and urban center. Industry accounts for just 13% of GDP.


Hango Agricultural College, part of the Free Wesleyan Church Education System, offers diploma and certificate courses. Tonga Maritime Polytechnical Institute is located in Nuku'alofa.


Village stores carry a stock of flour, sugar, canned meats, textiles, hardware, soap, kerosene, tobacco, and matches; in the larger towns, these shops are managed by Tongans for European trading firms. Storekeepers act as agents for the Commodities Board and often extend credit to their customers until the end of the harvest. The board's produce division helps market bananas, melons, and pineapples. The development of cooperatives, which serve as savings-and-loan, produce-marketing, and handicraft-manufacturing organizations, has been actively pursued.

Government business hours are 8:30 am to 4:30 pm, Monday to Friday. Private business hours are 9 am to 5 pm, Monday to Friday.

Country Exports Imports Balance
World 8.9 69.4 -60.5
Japan 3.9 3.7 0.2
United States 2.3 7.2 -4.9
New Zealand 1.2 25.5 -24.3
Samoa 0.7 0.3 0.4
Australia 0.3 17.5 -17.2
Fiji 0.1 10.3 -10.2
Germany 0.1 0.1
Other Asia nes 0.1 0.4 -0.3
() data not available or not significant.

All shops are closed on Sunday. Banks are open from 9 am to 4 pm, Monday to Friday, and from 8:30 to 11:30 am on Saturdays.


Tonga suffers from chronic trade deficits. Vegetables, including squash, are Tonga's main export commodities. Other exports include fish, spices and vanilla, and shellfish. In 2004, Tonga's primary export partners were: Japan (37.1%), China (18.7%), the United States (17.7%), Taiwan (8.7%), and New Zealand (7.4%). Primary import partners in 2004 were: New Zealand (37.1%), Fiji (24.3%), Australia (9.1%), China (8.9%), and the United States (6.3%).


Since 1960, Tonga has had a growing trade deficit, offset by funds from the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Australia, and the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

In 2004, Tonga had exports valued at an estimated $34 million, and imports valued at an estimated $122 million. Tonga carried an external debt burden of $63.4 million in 2001. In fiscal year 2001/02, Tonga received $5.5 million in economic aid from Australia, and $2.3 million from New Zealand.


The Bank of Tonga was formed in 1971, with the government holding 40% of the shares and 20% each held by the Bank of Hawaii, the Bank of New Zealand, and the Bank of New South Wales. The overseas banks provided staff and supervision for the Bank of Tonga, which offers all commercial services and has assumed responsibility for government savings, traders' current accounts, and foreign exchange dealings. The Tongan Development Bank (TDB) was founded in 1977.

Tonga's fiscal policy has traditionally been cautious, with taxation and expenditure measures balancing in the recurrent budget and the development budged being financed mainly through

Current Account -3,319.0
     Balance on goods -55,247.0
         Imports -73,373.0
         Exports 18,126.0
     Balance on services -9,309.0
     Balance on income 2,820.0
     Current transfers 58,416.0
Capital Account 13,412.0
Financial Account -3,174.0
     Direct investment abroad
     Direct investment in Tonga
     Portfolio investment assets
     Portfolio investment liabilities
     Financial derivatives
     Other investment assets
     Other investment liabilities -3,174.0
Net Errors and Omissions -47.0
Reserves and Related Items -6,872.0
() data not available or not significant.

grants and soft loans. Legislation to set up a central bank was passed in late 1988 and the National Reserve Bank came into existence the following year. The Ministry of Finance, the Board of Currency Commissioners, the Board of Coinage Commissioners, and the island's only commercial bank, the Bank of Tonga, had until then jointly performed central bank functions. A second commercial bank, MBF Bank, was launched in late 1993.

Legislation has been passed to enable Tonga to become an international banking center. The legislation permits up to four foreign banks to establish operations in the capital. The International Monetary Fund reports that in 2001, currency and demand depositsan aggregate commonly known as M1were equal to $20.6 million. In that same year, M2an aggregate equal to M1 plus savings deposits, small time deposits, and money market mutual fundswas $67.0 million.

Tonga has no stock issues or securities trading.


Blue Shield (Oceania) Insurance covers life, health, travel, workers' compensation, total permanent disability, accident, and local consultation services. There were at least seven other major insurers doing business in Tonga in 1999.


About half of all public revenues accrued from customs duties on imported goods; the remainder came mainly from export duties, port fees, income taxes, and stamp revenues. Principal items of expenditure were public health, medical services, education, and agriculture.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated that in FY99/00 Tonga's central government took in revenues of approximately $39.9 million and had expenditures of $52.4 million. Revenues minus expenditures totaled approximately -$12.5 million. Total external debt was $63.4 million.


Income tax is levied at progressive rates. Resident businesses pay 15% on profits up to $100,000, and 30% thereafter. Nonresident businesses pay 37.5% on profits up to $50,000 and 42.5% thereafter. All male Tongans 16 years of age and older, except the aged and infirm, pay an annual head tax, the receipts of which are used to finance free education and medical benefits. There is also a 5% sales tax.


Tonga has a single-column tariff based on the Customs Cooperation Council Nomenclature with custom duties ranging from 3065% of the CIF (cost, insurance, and freight). A 20% port and services tax is involved in the percentages. Tariffs are applied to most private sector imports, primarily for revenue purposes. Higher tariffs apply to cigarettes, alcoholic beverages, and petroleum, while public sector goods are exempt.


Although some non-Tongans have leased large plantations and residential and business sites, there is little private foreign investment. In 1997, foreign direct investment (FDI) was reported as $3 million, and then for the next four years, 1998 to 2001, $2 million a year. In 2003, FDI amounted to 1.65% of GDP. Government policy is that foreign investment is welcome. The statutory framework was laid out in the Industrial Development Incentives Act (IDI Act) of 1978 that provides for a tax holiday of five years extendable to 15 years, with additional tax holidays for expansions of an enterprise. Raw materials and semi-processed goods imported to manufacture an exported finished product are exempt from customs duties for two years, and all imports of capital goods, machineries and construction materials are assessed at 50% of port and service taxes. With a view to husbanding the country's foreign currency resources, there are restrictions, mostly on a pro rata basis, on the ability to move hard currency out of the country. Under current IMF-guided efforts at fiscal reform, this regime has been criticized for overbroad tax exemptions and is scheduled to be replaced with a new investment incentives law. Aside from the obvious problems of remoteness and lack of development, the main impediment to foreign investment is not the legal framework but its administration, which is due to lack of transparency and predictability. There are no free trade zones in Tonga, but in 1980 the government established the Small Business Center near Nuku'alofa that serves as an improved industrial park for small enterprises.

The bulk of Tonga's foreign reserves are invested in Australia. In 2002, in an extraordinary financial scandal it was revealed that all by about $2.2 million of the Tonga Trust Fund (TTF)$26.5 in allhad been lost.


Tonga's eight five-year plans (19662008) emphasized development of the islands' economic infrastructure, increasing agricultural production by revitalizing the copra and banana industries, improvements in telecommunications and transport, and expansion of tourism, industry, and exports. Through the nonprofit Commodities Board, the government has a trading monopoly in copra, bananas, melons, and other produce. In the 1990s, tourism revenues helped offset Tonga's large merchandise trade deficits, but substantial amounts of foreign aid continued to be required. From 199398, the economic growth was driven by a rise in exports of squash, increases in aid, and several large construction projects. Growth peaked in 1999/2000 at 6.5% but then plunged to only 0.5% in 2000/01 in the global recession that began the first quarter of 2001. The GDP growth rate in 2002 stood at 1.5% and at 1.9% in 2003.

The country is working toward improvement of the quality and standard of living for all Tongans. This is to be achieved through policy initiatives in five areas: 1) currency stabilization; 2) privatization; 3) updating and restructuring of the operations of stateowned enterprises (SOEs); 4) maintenance and improvements in the infrastructure; and 5) environmental protection. Other goals include continuing support for public sector reform; promotion of the private sector as the engine of growth; and sustainable environmental management and equitable social development. The economic reforms are being pursued in conjunction with political reforms that aim at bringing more democracy to the government.


Every family is provided by law with sufficient land to support itself. There is no social welfare department; the medical and education departments and the missions provide what welfare services are available. The only pension scheme is one for civil servants.

Polynesian cultural traditions have kept most women in subservient roles, and few have risen to positions of leadership. Inheritance laws discriminate against women, and women may not own land. Domestic violence is prevalent and dealt with according to tribal law and custom. Spousal rape is not recognized and the law specifies that relations between spouses cannot be deemed as rape. The Center for Women and Children focuses on improving the economic and social conditions for women. Child abuse is rare.

Human rights are generally well respected in Tonga. However, political dissent is suppressed.


Tongans receive free medical and dental treatment, but must pay for dentures. Non-Tongans are charged on a fixed scale. There is one government medical department hospital each in Tongatapu, Vava'u, Ha'apai, and Eau Island, with several dispensaries. There are 4 hospitals and 14 health care centers, with a total of 307 beds on the islands. In 2004, there were an estimated 34 physicians, 317 nurses, 19 midwives, and 32 dentists per 100,000 people.

Tonga is free of malaria and most tropical diseases, but tuberculosis, filariasis, typhoid fever, dysentery, and various eye and skin diseases remain common health problems. Nevertheless, in comparison with many other Pacific islands, Tonga is a healthy country. Approximately 85% of children were vaccinated against measles. By 1969, a joint WHO-UNICEF project had considerably reduced the incidence of yaws. Other health projects deal with school sanitation, community water supplies, maternal and child health, and nursing education. The population has access to safe water and adequate sanitation.

Life expectancy as of 2005 was estimated at 69.53 years. In the same year, infant mortality was an estimated 12.62 per 1,000 live births. As of 2002, the crude birth rate and overall mortality rate were estimated at, respectively, 24 and 5.6 per 1,000 people. The fertility rate was three children per woman.


Village houses usually have reed sides and a sloping roof thatched with sugarcane or coconut leaves; the posts are of ironwood, and braided cord takes the place of nails. More modern houses, especially in the towns, are built of wood, with roofs of corrugated iron. Unlike the village houses, they often contain more than one room and have verandas. Tongan taxpayers are entitled to an allotment of land from the governments. Each urban Tongan taxpayer receives an annual rent subsidy in lieu of this land allotment.

In 1986, the housing stock totaled 15,091 units. In 1996, the housing stock was at 16,194. The average household size was six people. In the decade between censuses, the number of European style homes increased by about 39% while the number of Tongan style hut dwellings decreased by over 60%. About 66% of all housing was of European style wooden construction, 19.5% was European style cement or brick, and 6.8% was Tongan style thatched roof and walls. At least 66% of all housing stock was on Tongatapu. About 84.6% of all households had access to piped water and 55.8% had flush toilets. About 81,4% of all housing was owner occupied.


The first schools in Tonga were started by the Wesleyan Mission in 1828, even before the conversion to Christianity of the Tongans. Practically all primary education was controlled by the Mission until 1882 when the government took over the educational system. In 1906, various missionary organizations again were allowed to establish schools.

Primary education is compulsory for six years. No tuition is charged at government schools (except the high school), but small fees are charged at mission schools. General secondary school lasts for five years. Students may choose to continue with one or two more years of upper secondary education. Selected Tongan students prepare for the New Zealand school certificate examination.

In 2001, about 29% of children between the ages of three and four were enrolled in some type of preschool program. Primary school enrollment in 2000 was estimated at about 100% of age-eligible students. The same year, secondary school enrollment was about 72.8% of age-eligible students. It is estimated that about nearly all students complete their primary education. The student-to-teacher ratio for primary school was at about 22:1 in 2003; the ratio for secondary school was about 14:1. In 2000, private schools accounted for about 9.2% of primary school enrollment and 72.8% of secondary enrollment.

The University of the South Pacific operates an extension center in Tonga. A teacher-training college, established in 1944, provides a two-year course. A government scholarship program provides the opportunity for Tongan students to pursue higher education abroad. In 2001, it was estimated that about 4% of the tertiary age population were enrolled in tertiary education programs. The adult literacy rate for 2004 was estimated at about 98.9%.

As of 2003, public expenditure on education was estimated at 4.9% of GDP, or 13.2% of total government expenditures.


Since 1971, the Ministry of Education has operated a joint library service with the University of the South Pacific. Its library in Nuku'alofa has 9,000 volumes covering agriculture, small business management, adult education, and an important collection of Pacificana. The Ministry of Education library has 12,500 volumes. Most of the secondary and high schools have libraries. The Tonga College Museum's collection includes artifacts of Tonga's history. Notable monuments include the great trilithon known as the Ha'amanga and some 45 langis, great rectangular platforms of recessed tiers of coral limestone blocks that were erected as the tombs of medieval kings.


The government's radiotelegraph station at Nuku'alofa has substations at Neiafu (Vava'u), Pangai, Ha'afeva and Nomuka (in the Ha'apai group), 'Eua, and Niuatoputapu. There is also a direct overseas telegraph service linking Nuku'alofa with Wellington, Suva, Apia, and Pago Pago. An internal radiotelephone service connects Nuku'alofa, 'Eua, Nomuka, Ha'afeva, and Vava'u, and a direct overseas radiotelephone service links Nuku'alofa to other Pacific island capitals. In 2002, there were 11,200 mainline phones in service throughout the country. In 2004, there were 9,000 mobile phones in use nationwide.

The Tonga Broadcasting Commission's Radio Tonga was established in 1961. It broadcasts about 75 hours a week in Tongan, English, Fijian, and Samoan; commercial advertising is accepted. In 2004 there were three privately owned radio stations. The government owned one of the three television stations operating in 2004. In 1997 Tonga had 600 radios and 18 television sets in use per 1,000 population. In 2002, there were 2,900 Internet subscribers.

In 2004, there were eight newspapers and newsmagazines in print. The government publishes a weekly newspaper, the Tonga Chronicle, which has an average circulation (in 2002) of 7,000 copies in Tongan and English. There are also church newspapers issued by missions and a few private publications printed at regular intervals.

The constitution provides for free speech and a free press, although occasional infringements of press freedoms do occur. In nongovernment publications, opposition opinion appears regularly, usually without interference, but journalists were being targeted for prosecution in civil lawsuits by the minister of police.


Extension of consumer cooperatives has been actively encouraged by the government. The Tonga Chamber of Commerce and Industry is in Nuku'alofa.

National youth organizations are typically affiliated with religious or educational institutions, including the Catholic Youth Association, Free Church of Tonga Youth Associations, Free Wesleyan Church Youth Association, Tonga Ex-Commonwealth Youth Programme Diplomats Association, and Tupou Farmers. Scouting and YMCA/YWCA programs are also available. Meetings of Christian Endeavor societies and Bible classes are well attended by all ages. There are sports associations promoting amateur competitions for athletes of all ages in a variety of pastimes.

Every Tongan village has a community house where ceremonial cloth (tapa) is made by groups of women. The Tongan Women's Progressive Association, formed in 1956, conducts programs for the betterment of village conditions and holds classes in a variety of subjects. There is a national chapter of the Red Cross Society.


Popular tourist sites are the royal palace and terraced tombs in Nuku'alofa. Most visitors enjoy a traditional evening feast of suckling pig, crayfish, chicken, and assorted accompaniments. Fishing, swimming, and sailing are popular. Rugby is a favorite spectator sport.

Tourists must have a valid passport as well as an onward/return ticket. Visitor's visas are required by nationals of 138 countries including China and Spain; they are provided upon arrival and valid for one month.

The tourist industry is a small but growing source of foreign exchange revenues. In 2003, there were 40,110 tourist arrivals, with 57% of travelers coming from Australia and New Zealand.

In 2005, the US Department of State estimated the daily cost of staying in Nuku'alofa and other areas of Tonga at $167.


King George Tupou I (Taufa'ahu Tupou, 17971893) ruled for 48 years; during his reign, Tonga became a Christian nation, abolished serfdom, and acquired a constitution. His prime minister, Shirley Waldemar Baker (18311903), was a Wesleyan clergyman who, after being deposed in 1890, became an Episcopal minister and then returned to Tonga. The most famous Tongan of this century was Queen Salote Tupou (190065), whose rule began in 1918. Her dynasty, the Tupou, is the third branch of the royal family and traces its descent back to Ahoeitu, the first Tu'i Tonga of whom there is record. Queen Salote's son, King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV (b.1918), succeeded to the throne in 1965 and was formally crowned in 1967.


Tonga has no territories or colonies.


Bain, Kenneth. The New Friendly Islanders: The Tonga of King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1993.

Cook, James. The Explorations of Captain James Cook in the Pacific, as Told by Selections of His Own Journals, 17681779. New York: Heritage, 1958.

Craig, Robert D. Historical Dictionary of Polynesia. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow, 2002.

Ellem, Elizabeth W. Queen Salote of Tonga: The Story of an Era 19001965. Auckland, N.Z.: Auckland University Press, 1999.

Lawson, Stephanie. Tradition Versus Democracy in the South Pacific: Fiji, Tonga, and Western Samoa. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996.

Leibo, Steven A. East and Southeast Asia, 2005. 38th ed. Harpers Ferry, W.Va.: Stryker-Post Publications, 2005.

Huntsman, Judith (ed.). Tonga and Samoa: Images of Gender and Polity. Christchurch, N.Z.: Macmillan Brown Centre for Pacific Studies, 1995.

Stanley, David. Tonga-Samoa Handbook. Emeryville, Calif.: Moon Publications, 1999.

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ETHNONYMS: Balumbila, Batoka, Batonga, Bawe, Toka


Identification. The Tonga occupy much of Southern Province in Zambia (formerly Northern Rhodesia), spilling over on the east into Zimbabwe (once Southern Rhodesia or Rhodesia). Tonga in Kalomo and Livingstone districts are known as Toka; to the north are Plateau Tonga; Gwembe Tonga live in Gwembe District and in nearby Zimbabwe. The Tonga never formed a single political unit. Today they are an ethnic group united by common language and in opposition to other Zambian ethnic groups, with whom they compete.

Location. Tonga country, Butonga, lies between 16° and 18° S and 26° and 29° E, bounded on the north by the Kafue and Sanyati rivers, in Zambia and Zimbabwe, respectively. Its southern boundary follows the Zambezi and Gwai rivers. It includes the southern Zambian plateau, which rises to more than 1,000 meters, the escarpment hills facing the Middle Zambezi Valley, the Zambezi plain lying some 600 meters below the plateau, and the escarpment hills within Zimbabwe. The Middle Zambezi Valley is knows as Gwembe Valley. Average annual rainfall varies from nearly 80 centimeters at the escarpment edges to 40 centimeters in northern Gwembe Valley. Drought years are frequent. Rains are expected by mid-November and taper off through March and April, when the cold dry season begins. June and July may bring light frost. In late August the hot dry season begins abruptly. Temperatures in northern Gwembe may reach 45° C. The Zambian Railway and a highway paralleling it cross the plateau south to north, giving access to markets for agricultural produce first created when copper mines were opened in Zaire and Zambia in the 1920s. This led to European farming settlement, the building of small townships dominated by Indian shopkeepers, and cash cropping by Plateau Tonga. Since the completion of Kriba Hydroelectric Dam in 1958, much of the Zambezi plain and the lower reaches of its tributary rivers have been flooded by Kariba Lake. Over 54,000 Gwembe Tonga were displaced from the river plain to new habitats in the hills above Kariba Lake or in more arid country below Kariba Dam. They also became more accessible.

Demography. In 1980 Southern Province had an estimated population of 791,296, at an average density of 7.9 per square kilometer, some of whom were non-Tonga immigrants. Many Tonga have emigrated to Central Province since the 1940s in search of agricultural land or urban jobs. In 1969 Tonga speakers comprised slightly over 10 percent of the Zambian population; in the 1980s they probably numbered over 800,000. There were approximately 40,000 Tonga settled in Zimbabwe in the 1950s. Birthrates are high; the rate of population increase is around 2.8 percent per annum.

Linguistic Affiliation. The Tonga speak dialects of ciTonga, a Central Bantu language, along with other languages of central and northern Zambia and adjacent regions in Zaire. It was committed to writing by missionaries in the early twentieth century and today has a minute literature, but Tonga writers prefer to write in English, the official language of Zambia. The Central Plateau dialect is becoming the standard used in schools and for broadcasting.

History and Cultural Relations

Tonga oral history is local history of no great time depth. Archaeological sites on the southern plateau associated with the arrival of the Tonga from the northwest date from the twelfth century a.d. Although they were shifting cultivators who had cattle, they also relied on game and fish. Their crafts included pottery and ironwork; a few scraps of copper remain. There is little evidence of differences in status or of long-distance trade. Sites in northern Gwembe from much the same period have richer assemblages and may not have been Tonga sites. Finds from Ingombe Ilede indicate trade contacts with the Indian Ocean. Some fourteenth- and fifteenth-century graves contained trade beads and worked gold, copper, and bronze. Ingombe Ilede may have been an outpost of one of the Shona kingdoms. Shona speakers still live nearby. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries northern Gwembe was visited by Portuguese and Chikunda from Mozambique, who first sought ivory and slaves, and then settled. In general, the nineteenth century was a time of turmoil: Toka country was occupied for a few years by Makololo from southern Africa; in the last half of the century, Lozi raiders from the Upper Zambezi and Ndebele raiders from Zimbabwe harassed all of Tonga country, and the Lozi established hegemony among the Toka. In the 1890s the British South Africa Company had little difficulty in annexing Tonga country and administering it as part of the newly created Northern Rhodesia that, in 1923, was handed over to the British Colonial Office. Early administrators organized the country into districts and created a skeletal administration based on appointed village headmen. These headmen were grouped into chieftaincies under appointed chiefs, who were responsible to a district administrator. Much land was taken for European settlement. After 1923, native reserves were set aside and allocated to the three divisions into which Tonga were by then grouped, under councils called the Plateau Tonga, the Toka-Leya, and the Gwembe Tonga native authorities. Missions arrived at the beginning of the twentieth century. They established schools and, on the plateau, provided instruction in plow agriculture. The Plateau Tonga developed a cash-crop economy by the 1930s; the Toka, with poorer soils, and the Gwembe Tonga, cut off by the escarpment, continued to work as labor migrants, usually in Zimbabwe, until after Zambian independence in 1964. Independence removed restrictions on African access to employment and the use of lands reserved for European development.


Plateau villages in the late nineteenth century were small clusters of round pole-and-mud huts with associated granaries and cattle pens, frequently housing a single extended family or a small number of kinsmen with their dependents, including slaves. Shifting cultivation encouraged the relocation of villages; these occasions provided the opportunity for dissidents to hive off. In the west, the placement of homesteads along long ridges to avoid floods led to larger aggregates. On the Zambezi plain, where alluvial soils permitted long-term cultivation, villages were stable and could contain up to 400 or 500 people. Early colonial administrators amalgamated small villages and required each village to have a minimum of 10 able-bodied male taxpayers, who had to build near their appointed headman. When these rules were relaxed in the 1950s, plateau villages were already somewhat stabilized by the placement of schools, by the planting of fruit trees, and by the construction of more permanent housing; nevertheless, villages rarely contained more than 300 people. Gwembe villages began to fragment after their relocation to the hills in 1958. Many Tonga now live in cities or in the small towns of the province, which are commercial and service centers for rural people.


Subsistence and Commercial Activities. The Tonga were hoe cultivators whose staple crops were sorghums and millets until well into the twentieth century. Maize, cucurbits, groundnuts, ground peas, sweet potatoes, tobacco, and cannabis were additional crops. Livestock included cattle (in areas where tsetse flies were absent), goats, sheep, dogs, and chickens. Hunting, fishing, and gathering wild produce were important. Plow agriculture, using oxen, is now universal. Many Plateau Tonga have substantial farms of more than a hundred hectares, as well as large herds of cattle. Some own small tractors that they hire to neighbors. Maize has been the primary plateau crop since the 1930s, but farmers have also experimented with beans, cotton, and sunflowers. They began to keep pigs in the 1930s. The shift to plowing in much of Gwembe came in the late 1950s. Gwembe farmers raise maize, sorghums, bulrush millet, and, since the 1970s, cotton, now the main cash crop, which, like maize, is sold to governments depots. Income is also derived through the sale of cattle, goats, chickens, and out-of-season vegetables. Tobacco is no longer an important crop. Pigs were recently introduced. Hunting is now important only in some sections of Gwembe and on the western plateau. Commercial fisheries exist on the Kafue River and on Kariba Lake, where most fishers are immigrants. Rural diets continue to rely upon plants collected in the bush.

Industrial Arts. Crafts were part-time occupations despite being practiced by specialists, among them blacksmiths, woodworkers, potters, and basket makers. Work at a craft was validated by the belief that an ancestor required a given person to carry on the skill. Other specialists were diviners, herbalists, song makers, and hunters. Old crafts, in abeyance because of a preference for factory-made imports, were revived after the 1970s when the difficulty of transportation and the high cost of foreign goods made imports difficult to obtain. Production is now for the tourist trade as well as local use. New crafts include carpentry, brick making, auto repair, tailoring, and needlework.

Trade. Marketplaces and shops are twentieth-century phenomena; earlier, trade took the form of direct exchange based on equivalences. Marketplaces are located in townships, where women are prominent as traders. Shops exist both in townships and villages and usually have male owners. In the townships, shop owners are frequently Indians.

Division of Labor. Building houses, clearing fields, taking care of cattle, woodworking, blacksmithing, hunting, and most fishing are the responsibilities of men. They work in their own fields and usually do the plowing. They are hawkers and shop owners and work in a wide variety of paid jobs. Women are potters and basket makers. They do much of the agricultural work, gather wild produce, fish with baskets, process food, brew beer, care for small stock, do much transport, plaster huts, and provide most care of children. Increasingly, they plow. Some also work for wages, as shop assistants or house servants, but also in professional positions. Both men and women are ritual experts and both are politically active.

Land Tenure. Alluvial fields along the Zambezi were lineage property but were allocated to individual men and women. In general, rights in a field belonged to the person who cleared it and were transferable. Where shifting cultivation prevailed, land was not inherited. A man was expected to clear fields for himself and for each wife. Wives controlled the produce from their own fields, which they stored in their own granaries. The crop from the husband's field was his. Uncleared land is now scarce, and fields are kept in permanent cultivation. Sale of land in former reserve areas is prohibited, and land is obtained through loan, gift, or inheritance. Grazing areas are held in common. Claims to fishing and hunting grounds are now unimportant, except on Kariba Lake, where the government licenses kapenta (Limnothrissa miodon ) fishing outfits and assigns them sites along the lake. Land pressure has led to emigration. The emergence of a landless rural class is imminent. Already, smallholders hire themselves to farmers who need additional labor. Cultivators are also being dispossessed as government allocates large tracts to multinational agribusinesses in hopes of spurring production.


Tonga belong to the clans and matrilineal descent groups of their mothers, although children also identify with their fathers and the descent groups of the latter. Residence is usually virilocal. The residential group, or homestead, usually consists of a man, his wife or wives, and their children. Sons may settle initially with their father but are likely to join other kin or establish their own homestead on the death or divorce of their parents. Descent groups disperse, but matrilineal kin assemble for funerals as long as common descent is remembered, and those living in proximity consult frequently. They inherit from each other and, in the past, formed a mutual defense and vengeance group. Residential units based on multilateral linkages, however important at any one time, are ephemeral. Continuity is created by the ties of matrilineal descent. Some fourteen clans exist. People with the same clan name are assumed to be related. Clanship provides a means of legitimating associations, which over time can be converted into kinship. The system of clan joking links clans for the provision of essential services at funerals and in some other tense situations.

Alternate generations are merged. Within-generation speakers refer to each other as senior or junior. On the plateau and in the Gwembe hills, Iroquois cousin terms are used. Plain dwellers use Crow cousin terms.

Marriage and Family

Marriage. Polygyny is common and may be increasing as farmers marry additional wives to obtain labor for expanded operations. Christians divide on whether monogamy is necessary. Childhood betrothal was abandoned by Plateau Tonga in the 1920s and by Gwembe Tonga in the 1950s. Cross cousins of both types were preferred spouses among Plateau Tonga and in the Gwembe hills, whereas Plains Tonga preferred marriage into the descent groups of their grandfathers. Most marriages linked people of the same village or neighborhood. Marriage today is usually initiated by elopement or when the woman is pregnant. Both damages and marriage payments are required, even in Christian marriages, and their value is steadily inflating. Young couples are initially attached to a relative's homestead; formerly, they did not have the right to their own cooking fire or to make beer for ancestral offerings until several years after marriage. A second wife may be attached to the household of the first wife for the probationary period; thereafter each wife is independent. Couples who begin married life in urban areas usually establish an independent household immediately. Divorce was and is common. Households headed by a single woman are increasingly common, although even early in the twentieth century some women chose to have children by lovers rather then accept a husband's domination. Couples do not hold property in common; upon divorce, each spouse retains his or her assets. Once equitable, this practice now places women at a disadvantage because the property they helped earn can be claimed by the husband. They also lose when widowed because the husband's assets are taken by his kin. Therefore, women try to build up their own assets, which they safeguard by sending to their own kin. Widows are ideally inherited by someone in the husband's descent group, but this practice is increasingly controversial, especially among Christians.

Domestic Unit. Each established wife or senior single woman is expected to cook for herself, her children, and other dependents and to send food to her husband. Women, girls, and very young boys of the homestead eat either together, sharing food, or separately, each woman eating alone with her children. Men and boys of the homestead eat together, sharing the food contributed by all the women. Each woman has her own dwelling. Monogamous women share the dwelling with their husbands; polygynous men move from wife to wife. Only unmarried men have their own houses. Co-wives have separate fields and separate granaries.

Inheritance. As the inheritance council held when the funeral ends, claims are canvassed. The father of the deceased, or his heir, can claim a share in stock and, today, money, but the bulk of the estate goes to matrilineal kin who appoint someone to become the guardian of the new spirit. This person is the primary heir, but stock and other possessions are distributed among a large number of claimants. The heir becomes the ritual parent of any children of the deceased and has claims upon their services and property, including marriage payments for daughters. In the past the preferred heir was of the same or alternate generation. Sons and daughters do not have the right to inherit, but in rural areas they may be given one or more head of cattle, and courts increasingly argue that those who work to increase the wealth of their father should benefit from that labor. Widows may be permitted to retain their fields but can be driven away if they refuse to be inherited.

Socialization. Infants and children are raised by parents and siblings, and frequently by other kin. Grandparents often care for children after divorce. Today children are exchanged between urban and rural areas to work for relatives or to attend school. Training in the past was oriented toward ensuring that children acquired skills essential to rural life; now families urge children to succeed at school so they can get good jobs and provide support to parents and siblings.

Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. Tonga society was once strongly egalitarian despite differences in wealth and the existence of slavery. Slaves were incorporated into the descent group of the owner, and they or their descendants might then be chosen as spirit guardians. The colonial administration abolished slavery. Today few know whose ancestors were or were not slaves. Lineages claiming priority of settlement within a neighbor.hood were said to hold katongo in that area, which amounted to a right to provide custodians for local shrines and sometimes a right to receive a portion of game killed. In southern Gwembe, status differences were more apparent. Today status reflects success in exploiting new economic opportunities, including education. Teachers and others with technical training, along with shop owners and wealthier farmers, form an emerging rural elite.

Political Organization. The Republic of Zambia is a single-party state organized into provinces and districts with their own administrations. Districts are divided into wards, and these into branches and sections. Elected councillors provide the effective grassroots political organization and have replaced the chieftaincy/village hierarchy that was the backbone of the colonial administration. Chiefs and village headmen still exist, but headmen have few functions, and chiefs act primarily as land allocators and ceremonial heads. Political initiative flows from the central government. As much as possible, the Tonga maintain their independence by avoiding contact with authority except when it might work to their advantage-Prior to the colonial era, and even much later, political leadership was usually provided by "big-men," whose exercise of power did not create a permanent office. Hereditary political office was the exception. Usually the political community was the neighborhood, of perhaps a thousand people, whose name derived from a geographical feature. Political authority was shared by senior men and women who assembled to settle disputes and organize communal rituals. Neighborhood residents were expected to attend each other's funerals. They had to observe ritual restrictions associated with "the work of the neighborhood," which centered on the agricultural cycle. They came together at local shrines to appeal for rain. Neighborhoods are still important under the party organization. Branch and section councillors summon people for communal labor: repairing roads, building additions to the local school, and other community work. Gwembe neighborhoods also have drum teams that perform at local funerals and represent the neighborhood on ceremonial occasions.

Social Control. Homestead members were expected to settle their own differences. Neighborhood moots dealt with quarrels between descent groups or general issues. Direct action to enforce rights or redress injury was common, but crosscutting ties of kinship damped down the possibility for prolonged feuding. Gossip and the fear of sorcery were important mechanisms of social control. The colonial administration instituted chief's courts and delegated to headmen the right to settle village disputes. Messengers attached to the chief's court provided an embryonic police force, reinforced by district messengers under the authority of the district commissioner. In 1964 elected party officers took over adjudication at the neighborhood level, and local courts are no longer under the jurisdiction of chiefs. Courts are responsible to the Ministry of Justice, which appoints their members and regulates procedures. Courts are still expected to operate within customary law unless it clashes with national legislation. Police units, party vigilantes, and other representatives of the central government are constant reminders of the centralization of authority.

Conflict. In years of hunger, neighborhood once raided neighborhood to obtain food, and neighbor stole from neighbor. In the Zambezi plain, lineage members quarreled over the allocation of alluvial fields, and adjacent cultivators accused each other of moving boundary marks. When cattle or other stock invaded fields, damages were demanded. There were quarrels over adultery, the flight of wives, and failure to meet marriage payments. Deaths, illnesses, and other misfortune led to accusations of sorcery. Many of these grounds for conflict still exist, and theft of livestock has increased vastly, as has armed banditry along the roads. The availability of alcohol, since beer has become commercialized, has increased the amount of physical violence.

Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs. Tonga have been exposed to Christian missions of many denominations since the beginning of the twentieth century. More recently, they have been evangelized by Pentecostal and Apostolic groups originating in the towns. Churches exist in many neighborhoods. Many people consider themselves Christians, but they may also adhere to some aspects of earlier Tonga belief and practice.

The Tonga recognized the existence of a creator god, Leza, now identified with the Christian God but formerly not responsive to human appeals. Basangu are spirits concerned with the fate of neighborhood communities and sometimes with larger regions. Mizimo are the spirits of the dead, concerned with the affairs of their own kin. Adult men and women become mizimo after death. Mizimo of parents are the most important, but offerings are also made to any former member of the descent group, to siblings of the father, and to grandparents. Invading spirits, masabe, attack individuals, as do ghosts, zelo. In the twentieth century new masabe are frequently recognized; recent ones have been Angels, Negroes, and the Regiment. Many Christians say these, along with the spirits of the dead and the community spirits, are demons.

The world is basically good. Evil exists through the malice of human beings who try to obtain power to maximize their own interests by use of medicines. Suffering may also occur because of failure to deal correctly with spiritual forces.

Religious Practitioners. Adult men and women serve as officiants at offerings to their ancestors. Spirit guardians are appointed to make such offerings on behalf of the children and grandchildren of the deceased. Shrine custodians perform rituals at neighborhood shrines and first-fruit rituals at their homes. Spirit mediums and diviners discover the will of spirits. Many women and some men are subject to possession by masabe and, when treatment is completed, may treat others similarly afflicted. Since the 1970s, some Tonga have become heads of evolving cults. Witch finders, today based in the towns, provide a means of controlling sorcerers. Evangelists, pastors, and other Christian leaders are other religious figures.

Ceremonies. Christians attend church services, and Christmas and Easter are now days of feasting. Appeals for rain and community protection are held at local shrines, but such rites are now rare among Plateau Tonga. Mediums are consulted by neighborhood delegations to learn why communal spirits are angry and how to renegotiate relationships with them. The spirits may demand an offering of beer or the sacrifice of a chicken, goat, or cow, after which those attending share a communion meal. Men and women pour an offering of beer at the doorway of a dwelling or at a special spirit shrine in the doorway. The beer should be made from grain grown in the field of the supplicant. Possession by invading spirits is treated by holding the appropriate dance and drama, through which the demands of the spirit are enacted.

Arts. Wood carving, pottery, basketry and metalwork are utilitarian, although fine pieces are made. Beadwork was formerly elaborate, but beads are now scarce and styles have changed. Music is important: Gwembe Tonga pride themselves on their drum teams; musical instruments include several types of drums, antelope-horn flutes, rattles, hand pianos, musical bows, and crude xylophones. Guitars, homemade banjos or ukeleles, and accordions cater to new musical interests. Men compose elaborate songs describing personal adventures or embodying insulting comments toward others. Women compose lullabies, dirges, and other songs. Beer drinking is enlivened by dramatic dancing.

Medicine. Illness is attributed to the anger of ancestral spirits, sorcery, the misuse of medicines acquired for success, the use of a tabooed substance, or spirit invasion. Minor illnesses are considered normal. Treatment may involve driving out an invading ghost through fumigation, sucking out the intrusive object, cupping (drawing blood by suction), pacifying an indignant ancestor, or taming an invading alien spirit through a dance, as well as the use of medicines. Herbalists supplement the widespread knowledge of home remedies. Medicines are infused and drunk, rubbed into cuts, or used in fumigation. People also use Western medicine, dispensed by hospitals, local health centers, private doctors, and herbalists.

Death and Afterlife. Infants and small children are given abbreviated funerals, and their spirits return to their mother's womb to be reborn. Adults receive elaborate funerals in preparation for their return as ancestral spirits at the end of the funeral, when the chosen guardian is pointed out to the spirit. If possible, beer is poured in its honor, to which it summons fellow spirits, thereby becoming acceptable to them. Burial is immediate, and usually close to the dwelling of the deceased; some villages have established cemeteries. Formerly, bodies were buried in the fetal position; today they are laid at full length and, if possible, in a coffin. Christians attend and pray over the grave even if the deceased was not a Christian.


Colson, Elizabeth (1958). Marriage and the Family among the Plateau Tonga. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Colson, Elizabeth (1960). Social Organization of the Gwembe Tonga. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Colson, Elizabeth, and Thayer Scudder (1988). For Prayer and Profit: The Ritual, Economic, and Social Importance of Beer in Gwembe District, Zambia, 1950-1982. Stanford, Calif: Stanford University Press.

Holy, Ladislas (1986). Strategies and Norms in a Changing Matrilineal Society: Descent, Succession, and Inheritance among the Toka of Zambia. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Reynolds, Barry (1968). The Material Culture of the Peoples of the Gwembe Valley. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Scudder, Thayer (1962). The Ecology of the Gwembe Tonga. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Vickery, Kenneth (1986). Block and White in Southern Zambia: The Tonga Plateau Economy and British Imperialism, 1890-1939. New York: Greenwood Press.


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Kingdom of Tonga

Pule'anga Tonga



The Tonga archipelago (group of islands) is in the Pacific Ocean about 4,000 kilometers (2,500 miles) southwest of Hawaii and about 1,600 kilometers (1,000 miles) northeast of New Zealand. The country consists of a series of islands, clustered into 3 main groups: Tongatapu, Ha'apai, and Vava'u; these were formerly known as the Friendly Islands. The total land area is 748 square kilometers (289 square miles), about 4 times the size of Washington, D.C. The coastline is 419 kilometers (260 miles). The capital is located on Tongatapu island.


The population of Tonga was estimated at 102,321 in mid-2000, a slight increase over the 1996 census population of 97,784. In 2000 the birth rate stood at 27.2 per 1,000 while the death rate stood at 6.1 per 1,000. With a projected annual population growth rate of 0.6 percent in the decade beginning with 2001, the population is expected to reach 104,100 by 2010. This relatively slow rate of growth is a result of an annual net migration rate of 15.1 per 1,000 population. Much of this migration is to New Zealand, but Tongans have also settled in Australia, the United States, and Europe.

The population is predominantly of Tongan (Polynesian) ethnic origin, although there are small numbers of Europeans and Chinese. Only 32 percent of the population live in urban areas, mainly the capital, Nuku'alofa. The urban growth rate is only slightly higher than the total growth rate, which was estimated at 1.91 percent in 2000. The Tongan population is very young, with nearly 42 percent under 15 years of age. Those between the ages of 15 and 64 make up 54 percent of the population, with the remaining 4 percent 65 years old and over. Various branches of Christianity, including Roman Catholicism, the Tokaikolo Church of Christ, and Free Wesleyan, are among those practiced on Tonga.


On a chain of small islands in the South Pacific, Tonga's economy relies on several basic elements, including subsistence production (making enough to survive), agricultural exports, the remittances (money sent home by former citizens working abroad) of Tongan migrants, and international aid. In the villages of Tonga, there is a great reliance on subsistence production of food and other items. There is no reliable survey of the number of people working in subsistence activities, but if it is assumed that most of the adult population not formally employed are primarily subsistence producers, then about 28,000 are in this category. In 1996, about 29,400 persons were engaged in wage and salary employment, with a further 4,500 listed as unemployed.

Agricultural products and fish have always been the mainstays of the export economy. Tourism is relatively small-scale, employing only about 1,400 people in the mid-1990s, but it showed some growth in the decade up to 1997, with the number of visitors increasing by about 5 percent per year.

The Tongan economy also remains heavily dependent on 2 types of transfers from overseas, which together account for 27 percent of GDP. The private remittances of Tongan migrants in other countries are an important source of income for many families in Tonga. Government expenditure is supported by international aid, mainly originating from Australia, Japan, New Zealand, the Asian Development Bank, and the European Union.


Tonga is the only surviving kingdom in the Pacific. Its 1875 constitution is the oldest one in the Pacific islands, and although Tonga was a "protected state" of Great Britain from 1900 to 1970, most Tongans maintain that their country was never a colony. The current system of government is a hereditary constitutional monarchy, with King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV ruling since 1965. Beneath the monarch, there are 33 nobles, who control most of the land in the country. The nobility was established in the constitution of 1875 and is based on inheritance. The prime minister, deputy prime minister, and cabinet are appointed by the king from this group. The unicameral (single house) Legislative Assembly (Fale Alea) is made up of 30 seats, 12 of which are reserved for the cabinet appointed by the monarch, 9 are selected by the nobles, and another 9 are elected by popular vote of all citizens over the age of 21 years.

The most important political development in recent years has been the formation of a party called the Human Rights and Democracy Movement (HRDM). In 1994 the HRDM was formed under the leadership of 'Akilisi Pohiva; in the 1999 elections this party won 5 of the 9 "commoner" seats in the Assembly. The HRDM has advocated a broader democratic base and land reforms that would reduce the power of the nobles; for these activities, Pohiva and others have been jailed for short periods for "contempt of Parliament."

About 20 percent of GDP in 1994-95 was raised by taxation, and this accounts for nearly 70 percent of government revenue. Trade taxes are the most important, making up 68 percent of tax revenues, and this is almost equally split between customs duties and port and services taxes. Direct and indirect taxes each make up a further 14 percent of tax revenue. Personal income tax is set at 10 percent and corporate tax is typically around 30 percent. In each case there are many possible exemptions, so these taxes raise less revenue than they might.


Transport needs within Tonga are served by roads, shipping services, and air. There are about 680 kilometers (423 miles) of roads, with 184 kilometers (114 miles) paved. These serve most areas within the main islands, with transport provided by private vehicles and bus services. Shipping among the 3 main island groups is provided by the government-owned Shipping Corporation of Polynesia and the private Uata Shipping Lines. These offer regular passenger, cargo, and car ferry services throughout the country.

Royal Tongan Airlines provides international air services from Fua'amotu Airport, the only of the country's 5 airports that has a paved runway. It also links the 3 island groups with regular domestic flights.

Parts of Tonga's telecommunications network are old. Domestic phone services link most of the country via the government-owned Tonga Telecommunications Commission, but there has been little upgrading since the 1950s. International communications via satellite are provided by Cable and Wireless Limited. Electricity is widespread and is generated completely by imported fuels. Tonga had 1 Internet service provider as of 1999.

Country Telephones a Telephones, Mobile/Cellular a Radio Stations a Radios a TV Stationsa Televisions a Internet Service Providers c Internet Users c
Tonga 8,000 (1996) 302 (1996) AM 1; FM 2; shortwave 1 (2001) 61,000 1 (2001) 2,000 2 1,000
United States 194 M 69.209 M (1998) AM 4,762; FM 5,542; shortwave 18 575 M 1,500 219 M 7,800 148 M
Philippines 1.9 M 1.959 M (1998) AM 366; FM 290; shortwave 3 (1999) 11.5 M 31 3.7 M 33 500,000
Solomon Islands 8,000 658 AM 3; FM 0; shortwave 0 57,000 0 3,000 1 3,000
aData is for 1997 unless otherwise noted.
bData is for 1998 unless otherwise noted.
cData is for 2000 unless otherwise noted.
SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [Online].


According to the Asian Development Bank, Tonga's economic sectors contributed to total GDP in 1999 in the following proportion: agriculture, fishing, and hunting, 29.9 percent; industry, 10.7 percent; services, 43.8 percent; other, 15.7 percent. In 1996, the same source reported that the total labor force of 33,900 was distributed in these sectors as follows: agriculture, 34 percent; industry, 22.8 percent; services, 43.2 percent.

The agriculture sector's contribution to GDP has been fairly consistent, dropping slightly from 31.6 percent in 1984 to 29.9 percent in 1999. Between 1994 and 1996, Tonga experienced a downturn in agricultural performance, along with declining price competitiveness internationally, and a weakening level of remittances from overseas migrants. This caused high unemployment in 1996. Industry, which contributed 10.7 percent of GDP in 1999, is made up of relatively small-scale processing of food and timber products for the local market, as well as small factories making products for export, including woolen goods. The service sector is the largest, made up mostly of the government subsector, and a smaller tourism one.


Agriculture contributed 29.9 percent of GDP in 1999, and in 1996 employed 34 percent of the labor force. In terms of GDP this proportion has been fairly consistent through the 1980s and 1990s, despite fluctuations due to weather and unstable world market prices for agricultural products.

As in most Pacific countries, subsistence production for domestic use is an important part of the economy, although not well recorded. The export of agricultural products has been highly unpredictable over time. Through most of the 20th century, Tonga's main export was coconut products, mainly copra (dried coconut meat yielding coconut oil), but at various times other products have been exported in sizeable quantities, particularly bananas.

A specialized market for squash was established in the 1980s when Tonga secured a quota to supply the vegetable to Japan during several months of the year when other sources, especially New Zealand, were not producing. In the early 1990s, this source of export income grew, but in the second half of that decade, production fluctuated considerably as a result of disease, weather, and oversupply. Other squash producers from Vanuatu and Mexico have also offered competition by entering the same market.

Other agricultural products, such as bananas and market vegetables, are significant in the domestic market but have contributed very little to export income in recent years. Even vanilla beans, which were significant exports in the early 1990s, have declined in importance because of international competition. There has been a small but steady export of root crops, mostly to supply Tongan and other Pacific communities, especially in New Zealand. Kava (a mild legal narcotic) production has increased recently, and this has considerable export potential as illustrated by the success of this industry in Vanuatu.

Fish was the second most important export during the 1990s, mainly high-grade tuna and snapper. The potential sustainable harvest of tuna is about 30,000 tons a year, which is several times higher than the existing harvest. Most fish is exported unprocessed to the United States, Fiji, and American Samoa. A cannery in Tonga is under consideration, but a restraining factor is government legislation requiring that 90 percent of sales from such a venture would have to be to overseas buyers.


Industry contributed 10.7 percent of GDP in 1999, a slight decline from 1984, when it contributed 13.8 percent of GDP. The importance of industry to employment is somewhat greater than this, however, since 22.8 percent of the labor force is industrial. Construction was the biggest single sector, followed by manufacturing. The contribution of construction is variable, depending on the expansion of tourism infrastructure (especially hotels) and new businesses in any one year.

The most important manufacturing activities are related to food and timber processing, mainly for the local market. Under a trade agreement with Australia and New Zealand (SPARTECA), Tonga is allowed to export manufactured goods duty-free, and at times has been successful in establishing a market for woolen goods and other products produced in small factories or from home. The advantages of this trade agreement have declined with trade liberalization , which has opened up the Australian and New Zealand markets to cheaper Asian products.


The largest sector in terms of GDP and employment is services, making up 43.8 percent of GDP in 1999 and providing 43.2 percent of jobs in 1996. Within this sector, the largest employer is the government, in the areas of public administration and education. In terms of GDP the next largest subsector is trade (including hotels and restaurants), followed by transport, communications, and finance. It is not possible to separate tourism out from these data since it makes contributions to several of these subsectors.


Tourism's contribution to GDP is rather minimal (about 2 to 3 percent), and it employs about 1,400 people. The industry began expanding in the late 1980s, when it welcomed 20,000 visitors per year, to 1995, when it welcomed 29,000, though there have been some fluctuations since then. Improvements in domestic and international air services have contributed to this growth, especially after the restructuring of Royal Air Tonga, the national airline. This carrier has flights to and from Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Samoa, and Niue. Other airlines serving Tonga include Air New Zealand, Air Pacific, Polynesian Airlines, and Samoa Air. Tourists visit Tonga for beaches, sun, and diving, but also to explore sites unique to the region, such as the 19th century royal palace and the Ha'amonga-a-Maui, a large trilithon (stone arch-way) built by a Tongan king sometime before the 13th century. Also on the island of Tongatapu are trees full of sacred bats, which only the monarch is allowed to kill, although presumably does not because of their tourist value.


International financial services are limited in Tonga. The domestic market is mostly served by the Bank of Tonga, ANZ (Australia New Zealand) Bank, and MBF (Malaysian Borneo Finance).


Retail services are typical of those available in a small Pacific nation. In the capital, Nuku'alofa, shops provide a reasonable range of products, mainly food goods from New Zealand and manufactured goods from Asia. In other parts of the country, small village shops supply only the most basic goods. Many Tongans also rely on goods packages from relatives living overseas, which are consumed within the family or sold to others.


According to statistics from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Tonga has had a negative trade balance since 1975. In 1975, Tonga's imports totaled $17 million and its exports $6 million. By 1998, according to the CIA World Factbook 2000, imports had risen to $69 million and exports to $8 million. This illustrates Tonga's very narrow export base, as it relies mainly on squash and fish, with small contributions from other agricultural and manufacturing products. Since squash is the most valuable export and the total production goes to Japan to be used in soups and various food products, that country accounts for more than 40 percent of Tonga's exports. The United States and New Zealand are the other significant export destinations, importing fish and small agricultural and manufacturing products respectively.

The most important imports into Tonga are foodstuffs, machines, and transport equipment. New Zealand is the most important source of foodstuffs and of some manufactures and is the source of about 35 percent of all imports. The next most important import sources are Australia, the United States, and Fiji.

The large negative trade balance is offset by other international transfers. Tourism contributes some international income, and there is potential for expansion in this sector. At the household level, the most important source of income is remittances from relatives living overseas, particularly in New Zealand, the United States and Australia. At the government level, international aid helps to counterbalance the large imbalance in trade.


The value of the pa'anga against the U.S. dollar has halved over the past 2 decades, from 0.9859 to the U.S. dollar in 1982 to 1.997 in February 2001. Much of this devaluation took place during the early 1980s, and then again in the late 1990s. During the 1980s, the export value

Trade (expressed in billions of US$): Tonga
Exports Imports
1975 .006 .017
1980 .007 .038
1985 .005 .041
1990 .011 .062
1995 .014 .077
1998 N/A N/A
SOURCE: International Monetary Fund. International Financial Statistics Yearbook 1999.
Exchange rates: Tonga
pa'anga (T$) per US$1
Jan 2001 1.9885
2000 1.7585
1999 1.5991
1998 1.4920
1997 1.2635
1996 1.2323
SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [ONLINE].

of coconut products and vanilla declined, and remittance income fluctuated, causing an impact on the currency. In the late 1990s and early 2000s a further serious devaluation occurred, and this may be partly attributed to the strong American dollar against the currencies of the Pacific region, including the New Zealand and Australian dollars, which are part of a number of currencies to which the pa'anga is linked.

The National Reserve Bank of Tonga (NRBT) has several functions. One of these is to stabilize the Tongan currency. This is only possible, though, within the network of the other currencies to which the pa'anga is linked. The NRBT also monitors the economy by maintaining databases and providing advice on government spending and revenue, the supply of money, interest rates, and the trade balance.


GDP per capita rose from $1,300 in 1975 to $1,868 in 1998, according to the Asian Development Bank. The CIA World Factbook 2000 reports a slightly higher figure, which it estimated at US$2,200 for 1998. Although the Human Development Indicator (HDI) for Tonga does not appear among the 174 countries which are ranked in the UNDP's Human Development Report 2000, it does appear in the UNDP's Pacific Human

GDP per Capita (US$)
Country 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000
Tonga 2,250 2,100 2,200 N/A 2,200
United States 28,600 30,200 31,500 33,900 36,200
Philippines 2,600 3,200 3,500 3,600 3,800
Solomon Islands 3,000 3,000 2,600 2,650 2,000
Note: Data are estimates.
SOURCE: Handbook of the Nations, 17th,18th, 19th and 20theditions for 1996, 1997, 1998 and 1999 data; CIA World Factbook 2001 [Online] for 2000 data.

Development Report 1999. In that report, Tonga has the sixth highest HDI of the 15 Pacific countries considered. Its GDP per capita is only the eighth highest of these countries, but it makes up for this with high indicators of education and health. Adult literacy for both men and women is reported to be near 99 percent, the highest of any Pacific country. Infant mortality, at 19 per 1,000, is one of the lowest in the Pacific, and this is illustrative of a good system of health delivery and a safe water system. Primary education is free and compulsory, and participation at secondary school is also high, resulting in a combined enrollment rate of 83 percent.

Still, there is some evidence of inequalities within the country. No calculated measures of the distribution of income or consumption are available, but there is some inequality of income between urban and rural areas. Squatter (one who lives somewhere without paying rent) settlements around the capital, Nuku'alofa, have a poor standard of housing and inadequate water and sanitation systems. In some rural areas, land access is inequitably distributed, despite the fact that all adult males on reaching their sixteenth birthday are supposed to be granted a plot of land by the local noble.


According to official statistics, about one-third of the workforce is not "economically active." These people are mainly village-based subsistence workers, a disproportionate number of whom are women, who are producing goods and services that are not exchanged for cash. Many of these aspire to become part of the country's formal sector. The situation for those who want wage employment does not appear good. It is estimated that of the 2,000 school graduates each year, only about 500 will find work in the formal sector. The rest must either return to the subsistence economy, continue job searching and become officially unemployed, or migrate. It is the latter option that many choose, and this partly explains why there are an estimated 50,000 Tongans living in other countries.

In the formal sector, about 37 percent of the work-force is female. While it is difficult to calculate, about 12 percent of the labor force is said to be unemployed. There is no comprehensive system of unemployment compensation, nor is there a general pension scheme. The country does not have a minimum wage law; workers did have some amount of protection in that they could live without a monetary income with the support of extended families and subsistence farming , if needed. There is no legal provision for labor unions in Tonga, although 2 associations that represent working groups are the Tonga Nurses' Association and the Friendly Islands Teachers' Association.


1140 B.C. Evidence of human habitation and Lapita pottery.

950 A.D. Tuíi Tonga is the dominant leader.

1643. First European (Dutch) sighting of Tonga by Schouten and Le Maire.

1643-1800s. Many European contacts include visits by "explorers" from the Netherlands, Great Britain, France, and Spain, who introduce many new trade goods and diseases.

1777. British Captain James Cook explores what he calls the "Friendly Isles."

1822. First Christian conversions, by Wesleyan missionaries; Tonga becomes nominally Christian over the next 20 years.

1845. After civil wars, King Taufa'ahau Tupou I (George Tupou I) of the Ha'apai group becomes first ruler of a united Tonga.

1875. New constitution proclaims Tonga an independent constitutional monarchy.

1900. Great Britain declares Tonga a "protected state" but does not impose full colonial rule.

1918. Queen Salote Tupou III is crowned, and rules until 1965.

1960s. Large-scale migrations to New Zealand and elsewhere begin.

1965. King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV, the current monarch, is crowned.

1990s. Rise of republican movement proposing full democracy and end of monarchy; squash becomes primary export, to Japanese market.


The late 1990s was a period of economic stagnation by some indicators. Primary exports in agriculture, forestry, and fishing had declined as a result of drought, hurricane damage and unstable world prices. However, the balance of payments was still positive as a result of some growth in services and a steady flow of remittances. Both the private and public sectors have been making an ongoing attempt to identify niche markets for Tongan enterprise, ranging from the export of new agricultural products such as the vaguely narcotic but reputedly therapeutic kava, to the acquisition of a number of satellite television bands, which Tonga has successfully leased. Despite a relative lack of resources, there is some optimism for the future based on the high educational levels of Tonga's population and the international networks established by Tongan migrants. At the same time, there will be ongoing pressure to further democratize Tonga's political system. In the long term, the monarchy may survive, accompanied by a more democratic Parliament, although such a change is not likely to have a significant economic impact, other than perhaps allowing a more equitable distribution of wealth.


Tonga has no territories or colonies.


Asian Development Bank. "Key Indicators for Developing Asian and Pacific Countries." <>. Accessed February.2001.

. Country Assistance Plan 2001-2003. Tonga: ADB, 2000.

. Tonga: Economic Performance and Selected Development Issues. Manila: ADB, 1996.

Fairbairn, Te'o I.J. "The Tongan Economy: Recent Performance and Future Challenges." Pacific Economic Bulletin. Vol. 13, No. 1, 1998.

Lal, Brij V. & Kate Fortune. The Pacific Islands: An Encyclopedia. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2000.

United Nations Development Programme, Pacific Human Development Report 1999: Creating Opportunities. Suva: UNDP, 1999.

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. "The World Factbook, 2000." <>. Accessed January 2001.

Wardlow Friesen




Pa'anga (T$ or TOP). There are coins of 1, 2, 5, 20, 50 seniti and 1 and 2 pa'anga, and notes of 1, 2, 5, 20, and 50 pa'anga. One pa'anga equals 100 seniti.


Squash, fish, vanilla beans.


Food, machinery and transport equipment, fuels, chemicals.


US$238 million.


Exports: US$8 million (1998 est.). Imports: US$69 million (1998 est.).

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Identification. The Kingdom of Tonga, located in the South Pacific Ocean, was under the protection of Great Britain from 1900 to 1970. Tongans have had a constitutional monarchy since 1875 and in 1970 Tonga became an independent country, joining the British Commonwealth of Nations. The islands of Tonga (known to eighteenth-century Europeans as the "Friendly Islands" because of the friendly reception given to explorers) have a total area of approximately 646 square kilometers. The word tonga means "south" in many Polynesian languages.

Location. In 1887, the territorial boundaries of the Kingdom were established to encompass an ocean area from 15° to 23° S by 173° to 177° W. The islands fall within a rectangle some 959 kilometers from north to south and 425 kilometers from east to west. The three principal island groups, from north to south, are: the Tongatapu group (tapu means "sacred"); the Ha'apai group; and the Yava'u group. Tongatapu Island, the largest island in the kingdom, is the seat of Tongan government. The Tongan Islands are the low coral type, with some volcanic formations. The highest point in the Kingdom of Tonga is 1,030 meters on the uninhabited volcanic island of Kao. Tongatapu Island has a maximum elevation of 82 meters along the southern coast and the island of Yava'u reaches to the height of 305 meters. Average temperature in the Kingdom of Tonga in the winter months of June-July is 16-21° C and in the summer months of December-January it is about 27° C. The island chain of Tonga is classified as semitropical even though in the northern islands there is a true tropical climate and rainfall on Yava'u can be as much as 221 centimeters per year. Rainfall on Tongatapu averages 160 centimeters per year, with November to March being the local hurricane season. Because of the destructive powers of hurricanes striking mainly in the northern Tongan Islands, the southern island of Tongatapu became the place where Tongan culture was established with relative permanency.

Demography. It has been estimated that in the year 1800 there were approximately 15,000 to 20,000 Tongans residing throughout the islands. In 1989 the resident population of the Kingdom of Tonga was estimated to be 108,000, with Tongans comprising 98 percent of the population and the remainder being other islanders or foreign nationals. The Capital and principal city of the kingdom is Nuku'alofa, with an estimated population of 30,000, located on Tongatapu Island. Tongatapu Island itself has an estimated island population of 64,000. There are 48,000 Tongans who are ages of 0-14 (45 percent); 54,000 ages 15-59 (50 percent); and 6,000 (5 percent) over the age of 60. There are also approximately 40,000 to 50,000 Tongan nationals residing in Australia, New Zealand, and the United States of America.

linguistic Affiliation. The Tongan language is derived from a proto-Fijian-Polynesian language originally spoken by Fiji islanders about 1500 b.c. Linguistic and archaeological evidence points to the migration of people into Tonga from locations north and west of the islands.

History and Cultural Relations

Through the use of carbon-14 dating techniques, a date of 1140 b.c. is the given date for the beginning of human occupation of Tongatapu. The first Europeans to visit the Tongan Islands were Dutch navigators in 1616 (Willem Schouten and Jacob LeMaire) and additional contacts occurred as other Europeans explored the Pacific throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Contacts between Europeans and Tongans lasted for periods of a few days to several weeks. Publications by Europeans about Pacific Islanders placed Tonga firmly on the map of the world. These published accounts, coupled with the great evangelical revival that swept Europe in the nineteenth century, caused Organizations to send individuals to convert the peoples of the Pacific. Tonga, along with the South Pacific islands of Tahiti, was one of the first island groups to receive European missionaries specifically for the purpose of converting the native inhabitants to Christianity. After European missionaries landed in Tahiti in 1797, additional missionaries continued on to Tongatapu. Other missionaries also arrived in Tonga in 1822 and in 1826 two Tahitians who had converted to Christianity in their native islands arrived on Tongatapu while en route to Fiji and began their Christian work among the Tongan natives. There is no indication that Tongans had extensive trading voyages with other Polynesian island groups. Modern Tonga, an ethnically homogeneous Polynesian Kingdom, is attempting to find its way into the twenty-first Century. Tongans in the islands are extremely dependent upon relatives living overseas who send money back to family Members. In recent years, funds sent back to Tonga from relatives living abroad amounted to ten times the amount of income the kingdom generated from the export of agricultural Products such as copra, vanilla, and bananas. Attempts at solving the inherent economic problems of the kingdom have included oil exploration since the 1960s, foreign aid, and increased tourism ventures. As of this publication, however, no oil has been discovered, foreign aid continues, and the Tourism industry is much too fragile and dependent upon variables beyond the control of Tongans. Late in 1989, individuals in Tonga began discussing the possibility of a casino for tourists that would be open only to foreign-passport holders in the kingdom.


Prior to European missionaries, Tongans lived in dispersed settlement patterns that were kin-based and kin-related Territorial units. A typical Tongan residential site included a home (fale ), with a thatched roof and sides made from woven coconut-palm fronds, as well as a separate area for cooking purposes that would have an earthen oven ('umu ). Today, in addition to some traditional thatched homes, numerous nontraditional or European-American homes (made of wood, concrete, and metal) are located throughout the islands.


Subsistence and Commercial Activities. Prior to the establishment of a market economy, Tongans were subsistence farmers and fishers who had adapted to the environment of their relatively small groups of islands. Because of the relatively low population density of the islands in traditional times, Tongans were essentially self-sufficient horticulturalists and fishers who traded for foodstuffs and material goods among themselves. In the late 1980s, earnings from the Tourism industry, accompanied by funds received from Tongans living abroad, accounted for the majority of all personal income in the Kingdom of Tonga. In traditional Tonga, tropical products such as yams, breadfruit, taro, and coconuts were all cultivated on small farms. Tongans fished the surrounding waters by spear fishing, by net fishing, and by hand. In recent years the pressures of population growth and tourism have forced Tongans to import much of their foodstuffs, including canned meats and fish.

Industrial Arts. Contemporary Tongans are small-scale handicraft manufacturers for the tourist industry and there are still independent artisans, manufacturers of basketry and wood carvings, on the islands. In traditional times, Tongans carved small statues and bowls and manufactured other items, such as baskets, mats, and sails, from tropical materials.

Trade. Evidence indicates that, in traditional times, Tongans had large double-hulled canoes called kalia that could carry provisions for up to 200 people, and in them Tongans made extensive trading voyages between Fiji and Samoa.

Division of Labor. Young males in traditional Tonga followed their father's occupation, with the eldest son receiving the title to the trade. Hereditary occupations included canoe building, fishing, and cooking; some trades could be hereditary or not, such as tattooing and barbering. Both men and women could be priests, and women also gathered reef fishes and fished with nets in the lagoon. Women manufactured valuable items (koloa ), such as basketry, mats, and tapa, and women prepared kava. Kava, the nonnarcotic drink made from the roots of the Piper methysticum plant, continues to be an important social and ceremonial drink and elaborate Rituals involving kava drinking exist for various ceremonial occasions such as marriages and funerals. Tapa, a clothlike Material made from the bark of the paper mulberry tree (Broussonetia papyrifera), is still widely manufactured today for sale to tourists. Mats in traditional Tonga, woven for floors and walls, could also be worn as waist garments (ta'ovala ) or used as sails for canoes. With a cash economy and increased sales of female-produced items for the tourist market, certain women now make more money than men, and tensions between the sexes have increased in Contemporary Tonga.

Land Tenure. Current Tongan law guarantees that every male over the age of 16 should receive an allotment of land: an 'api of 3.3 hectares for agricultural purposes and 0.16 of a hectare as a site for a home. Because of population growth and limited natural resources, however, thousands of Tongan males are landless today. Prior to the Tongan constitution, established in 1875 by King George Tupou I (1797-1893), land rights in Tonga were vested with an extended kinship group, the ha'a, a corporate landholding and propertysharing descent group. The leadership of the ha'a distributed resources to members. In 1875, however, all land was acquired by the Crown for redistribution to a newly created class of hereditary nobles (nopele ) for eventual redistribution to the people.


Kin Groups and Descent. Divided into various ha'a, traditional Tongan society had a patrilineal descent system, yet matrilineal lines were also taken into consideration for decisions involving chiefs. Tongan society wasand continues to bean extremely rank-conscious society, with rank being based on age or birth order, gender, and kinship affiliation. There was a great deal of mobility in traditional Tongan Society, and the rank of an individual on any given occasion was relative to the other individuals present at that occasion.

Kinship Terminology. Kinship terminology was extended to collateral relatives, though to a lesser degree than in the Hawaiian system.

Marriage and the Family

Marriage. Monogamy was and is the norm in Tonga, but in traditional times multiple marriages were not uncommon and marriage dissolutions and subsequent remarriages often occurred.

Domestic Unit. Traditionally, a wife became part of her husband's lineage upon marriage and set up residence in the territory of her husband's ha'a or in the area of a smaller kindred group (kainga). Large families were the rule in Tonga, and children were frequently adopted by individuals. The extended family wasand continues to bean important organizing group in Tonga.

Inheritance. Currently there are strict rules of male primogeniture in Tonga, but in traditional times adopted and fictive kin could inherit various titles and possessions. Much of traditional Tongan consensus and flexibility was eliminated with the introduction of Tongan law codes and the constitution of 1875.

Socialization. That which occurs in Tonga in day-to-day existence is fakatonga, or the Tongan way of life or doing things; Tongans have continuously adapted to changing environmental situations to the best of their abilities. The most important agents of socialization in traditional Tonga were members within the immediate family and then individuals of the ha'a: parents, siblings, and near relations were key. In contemporary Tonga, in addition to family relations, criteria such as religious affiliation, educational background, and whether one is of the nopele class or "commoner" class contribute to day-to-day socialization activities. Perhaps the most important expression of Tongan reality is the concept of 'ofa, literally "to love" or have a fondness towards an Individual; the phrase 'ofa atu (literally, "love to you") can be heard on many important ceremonial occasions.

Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. Tongan society was and is Hierarchical in nature. There is an administrative class consisting of the agreed-upon titleholders or rulers, currently personified by the nobles (nopele) and the reigning monarch. Experts in traditions or spokespersons (matapule ) are next, followed by the bulk of the populace, the commoners. Before the Europeans arrived in Tonga, the embodiment of all that was sacred and secular (and leader of all Tongans) was the individual designated as the "Tu'i Tonga." In approximately the fifteenth century, as Tongan society expanded in size, a division was made between the sacred and secular aspects of managing the islands. An individual who was the brother of the Tu'i Tonga was designated the "Tu'i Ha'a Takalaua," the administrator of the secular aspects of Tongan society. Approximately 200 years later, the Tu'i Ha'a Takalaua delegated some of his secular authority to his son and created the Lineage known as the "Tu'i Kanokupolu." In traditional times, the fourth major Tongan individual was the sister of the Tu'i Tonga, designated the "Tu'i Tonga Fefine," given the title of "Tamaha." All Tongans, including the reigning monarch of the modern Kingdom of Tonga, theoretically trace their Kinship affiliations, and hence their rank relative to one another, from these four chiefly titleholders. In traditional Tonga, succession to a title and chieftainship depended upon a variety of factors, especially the decision of the corporate landholding and property-sharing descent group. Any individual who had a position of authority in traditional Tongan society and had a title as evidence of rank did not have the title Because of any inherent rights but only because he or she had the consensus of the governed group. The titleholder operated within a system of checks and balances that ensured that the governed were willing to be influenced and led by these individuals.

Political Organization. Tongan culture began to change in the seventeenth century, when the first European explorers landed in the islands. The culmination of these changes took place in 1875 when the Tongan constitution was introduced. By the nineteenth century, a traditional and flexible system of titles and inheritance, which had been in operation for hundreds of years, passed out of existence. In 1875, a rigid fatherto-son inheritance system was instituted and the inherent consensus and flexibility concerning the rights of leadership or chieftainship passed out of existence.

Social Control. Informal social control could take the form of gossip when there was inadequate social reciprocity on various occasions. Tonga operates under a constitutional monarchy and in addition to the current reigning monarch there is an executive branch (consisting of the prime minister and a cabinet appointed by the king) as well as the legislative and judicial branches. The twenty-nine-member Legislative Assembly or parliament consists of the governors of Ha'apai and Yava'u, nine cabinet ministers, nine nobles, and nine commoners. Tonga also maintains the Tonga Defense School of 400 individuals, charged with maintaining public order, patrolling coastal waters, and engaging in various Kingdom of Tonga projects.

Conflict. Although Tongan oral histories report some traditional conflicts relating to political situations, Tongans were essentially peaceful islanders prior to the coming of European missionaries. In early nineteenth-century Tonga, the Christian missionaries made numerous efforts to convert the chiefs to the new religion, since if the chiefs converted, their people would follow. As word of missionary successes in the islands spread, other missionaries arrived and religious wars of intense fury began in 1826. Although it may not have been a deliberate nineteenth-century missionary plan, a divideand-conquer policy saw non-Christian Tongans fighting against Christian Tongans, and there were additional conflicts in 1837, 1840, and 1852. With the aid of missionaries, three Tongan law codes were introduced to Tongans in 1839, 1850, and 1862. The culmination of all missionary involvement was the Tongan constitution of 1875. Tonga continues to have problems: its economy remains unsound and the lack of serious planning for its improvement may lead to political unrest in the future.

Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefe. Traditional Tongans believed in a multideity world including Tangaloa, who pulled up certain Islands from the sea. There were traditional gods of various trades (such as fishers or artisans) and gods of various ha'a. In observance of the strictures of fundamentalist Christianity, it is written into the Tongan constitution that the Sabbath is a legal day of rest in the Kingdom of Tonga, and no commercial activities or entertainment are officially allowed. It should be pointed out, however, that these legal regulations do not coincide with actual activities.

Arts. In traditional Tonga, tattooing was an important form of ornamentation, but with European contact this traditional art has all but vanished. One of the highest forms of traditional arts that has survived into the twentieth century is tapa artistry. Tapa continues to play an important role in gift giving, being redistributed among Tongans on important occasions. Other forms of the expressive arts in Tonga surviving into the twentieth century include dances and kava preparation.

Medicine. Tongans practiced traditional medicinal techniques, utilizing local products and the assistance of Tongan specialists who interceded with the deities for good health. Today there are modern hospital facilities on Tongatapu.

Death and Afterlife. In traditional times, after a Tongan titleholder died the body would be interred in a royal tomb (langi ) on Tongatapu Island, and the soul was believed to go to Pulotu, the home of Tongan deities and the location where Tongans were thought to reside with their principal gods in the afterlife. Prior to the introduction of Christianity, Commoners were believed not to have souls, but this way of thinking appears to have changed. Tongan kinship ties are truly demonstrated at times of death, and each individual who is related to the deceased has a specific task to perform during the funeral activities. Black is the color of mourning in Tonga.

See also Anuta, Futuna, Lau, Niue, Rotuma, Samoa, Uvea


Connelly-Kirch, Debra (1982). "Economic and Social correlates of Handicraft Sellers in Tonga." Annals of Tourism Research. 9:383-402.

Ferdon, Edwin N. (1987). Early Tonga: As the Explorers Saw It, 1616-1810. Tucson: University of Arizona Press.

Gifford, Edward W. (1929). Tongan Society. Bernice P. Bishop Museum Bulletin no. 61. Honolulu.

Tanham, George K. (1988). The Kingdom of Tonga. [RAND: N-2799-OSD, prepared for the Office of the United States Secretary of Defense.] Santa Monica, Calif. Rand Corporation.

Urbanowicz, C. F. (1977). "Motives and Methods: Missionaries in Tonga in the Early Nineteenth Century." Journal of the Polynesian Society. 86:245-263.

Urbanowicz, C. F. (1979). "Changes in Rank and Status in the Polynesian Kingdom of Tonga." In Political Anthropology: The State of the Art, edited by S. L. Seaton and H. J. M. Ciaessen, 224-242. The Hague: Mouton.

Urbanowicz, C. F. (1989). "Tourism in Tonga Revisited: Continued Troubled Times?" In Hosts and Guests: The Anthropology of Tourism, 2nd ed., edited by Valene Smith, 105-117. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.


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Kingdom of Tonga

Major City:

Other Cities:


TONGA is located south of Western Samoa, and less than a quarter of the nation's 169 islands are populated today. Some of the Tongan islands may have been settled since at least 500 BC. The Tongan realm reached its zenith in the 13th century, when its control extended over part of the Lau group in Fiji, Rotuma, Futuna, 'Uvea, Tokelau, Samoa, and Niue. The Dutch first encountered Tonga in 1616, and Captain James Cook visited the islands in 1773 and 1777. Between the 1790s and the 1820s, civil war broke out among rival dynasties for control of the monarchy; it finally ended in 1845. Tonga entered into a treaty of friendship and protection with Great Britain in 1900. During World War II, New Zealand and US troops were stationed on Tongatapu, which became a hub for shipping. Coconuts, bananas, and vanilla became the main economic resources. Two more treaties of friendship between the United Kingdom and Tonga were signed in 1958 and 1960. On June 4, 1970, Tonga became an independent member of the Commonwealth of Nations. Tourism has become an important source of earnings, but Tonga still relies on foreign aid.



Tonga's only urban and commercial center is Nuku'alofa, located on the island of Tongatapu. Nuku'alofa is 430 miles from Suva, Fiji, and about 1,100 miles from Auckland, New Zealand. Tongatapu covers about 100 square miles and is the traditional residence of the king and high chiefs. The other islands traditionally supplied Tongatapu with agricultural produce throughout the year. Tongatapu became known as the "land of chiefs" while the outer islands were referred to as the "land of servants." Nuku'alofa was originally a fortress for the western part of the island. Raiders from the nearby Ha'apai island group periodically attacked the fort in the late 18th century and entirely destroyed it around 1807. Almost two-thirds of the country's population now lives on Tongatapu, and the Nuku'alofa area has about 40,000 inhabitants. The town has the majority of Tonga's hotels, restaurants, shops, bars, and other urban features, but its sprawl now covers nearby agricultural land and wetlands, and shacks line the edge of town. Nuku'alofa and Neiafu are Tonga's only ports of entry for foreign vessels. Nuku'alofa has a deepwater harbor that is protected by reefs. The Pacific Forum Line and the Warner Pacific Line maintain scheduled service from Australia and New Zealand to Tonga via the Samoas or other islands. Tonga's main air field is Fuaamotu International Airport, 13 miles by road from Nuku'alofa. The government-owned Friendly Island Airways conducts flights between Tongatapu, Ha ' apai, ' Eua, Vava ' u, and Niuatoputapu. The town's economy is based on exports of copra, bananas, and vanilla and the sale of local handicrafts at the Malae (Park) Market.

Recreation and Entertainment

Basketball, boxing, cricket, rugby, soccer, and volleyball are all popular in Tonga. Fishing and sailing are popular recreations. Rugby matches are played at the Teufaiva Outdoor Stadium on Friday and Saturday afternoons from mid-spring until mid-summer. There are several dive sites to the north of Tongatapu along the many islands, reefs, and shoals. Four of Tonga's five national marine reserves are located in the reefs north of Tongatapu.

The Royal Palace is a white wooden Victorian building landscaped with expansive lawns and Norfolk Island pines. The palace was manufactured in New Zealand in 1867 and transported to Nuku'alofa. The Royal Chapel was built behind the palace in 1882, and it has served as the site of Tonga's coronations since then. The palatial estate is not open to visitors but is visible from the waterfront. The royal tombs are located less than a mile south of the palace. The site has contained the graves of the monarchs (and their immediate families) since 1893. The graveyard lies in a large park adjacent to the Basilica of St. Anthony of Padua but is not open to the public. The basilica was constructed by volunteers in the late 1970s. The Tongan War Memorial at the Town Common is dedicated to the memory of Tongans who perished in World War II. The Nuku'alofa Talamahu Market is the country's main produce market.

The Tongan National Center in nearby Vaiola displays Tongan history, artifacts, and portraits of the monarchs. There are also demonstrations of traditional basket weaving, tapa making, wood, bone, and coral carving, painting, and kava preparation. Kava is a popular Tongan beverage, a mild tranquilizer made from the ground root of the pepper plant. Visitors to Tonga often enjoy a traditional evening of suckling pig, crayfish, chicken, and assorted accompaniments.

The famous 1789 mutiny on the British ship Bounty took place in the waters between the Ha'apai and Nokuma island groups. The former site of the Nuku'alofa fortress is on the slopes of Mt. Zion near the palace, but a radio tower now stands in its place.

The Tongans' ancient tombs consisted of great rectangular platforms of recessed coral limestone blocks erected in tiers. A traditional stone-lined burial vault would be dug into the sand on top of the platform. The Paepae'o Tele'a site on Tongatapu is the grandest of these ancient burial grounds, with its terraced platforms. This particular tomb, however, was probably erected as a memorial since it contains no burial vaults.

European and indigenous culture and living patterns have blended in Nuku'alofa, but in the rest of Tonga village life and kinship ties continue to be important. Heilala is a week-long series of celebrations, parades, sports competitions, and cultural events that take place during the time around the king's birthday (July 4). The Pangai public water-front area is used for royal ceremonies, festivals, and local soccer and cricket matches. Singing and music are popular forms of entertainment.

The annual National Music Festival in June is a two-week competition with over ten different categories of performance. Tonga, along with some other South Pacific nations close to the International Dateline, is preparing an elaborate celebration to greet the new millennium. Since 1971, the Ministry of Education has operated a joint library service with the University of the South Pacific. The library is in Nuku'alofa and contains approximately 7,000 volumes. The Tonga College Museum's collection includes artifacts of Tonga's history. There are libraries at the Basilica of St. Anthony of Padua, and at the New Zealand and Australian high commissions. Nuku'alofa also has one small cinema.


Largely uninhabited, TOFUA 's claim to fame is mutiny. It is believed that the famous Mutiny on the Bounty happened here in 1789, when quartermaster John Norton was clubbed to death (on Mutiny of the Bounty Beach) and Captain William Bligh and his men began their 4063 mile trip to Timor. Tofua is the largest island in the group and is fairly well covered with rainforest. Hikers can enjoy a large variety of plant and birdlife. Tofua is also the site of Tonga's most active volcano, which features a steaming lake in its crater.


Geography and Climate

The Tonga archipelago lies scattered east of Fiji in the South Pacific Ocean. The islands run roughly north-south in two parallel chains. There are 172 islands, of which 45 are inhabited. The total area of the islands is 289 square miles, or more than four times the size of Washington, D.C. The western islands are volcanic, and the eastern islands are coralline and encircled by reefs. The volcanic islands reach a height of 3,389 feet on Kao. Fonuafo'ou, about 40 miles northwest of Nuku'alofa, is famous for its periodic submergences and reappearances, as a result of earthquakes and volcanic action. The climate is subtropical, with the cooler season lasting from May to November. The average daily temperature ranges from 50° F in winter to 90° F in summer. Most rainfall occurs between December and March. The annual average rainfall on Tongatapu is 70 inches; on Niuatoputapu, 74 inches; and on Vava'u, 110 inches.


There are an estimated 110,000 people living in Tonga, for a density of 385 people per square mile. There has been considerable migration to urban areas, and many Tongans emigrate to work abroad. About 99% of the population is Tongan, a homogeneous Polynesian people. The remainder of the population is European, part-European, Chinese, or non-Tongan Pacific islander. Christianity is the dominant religion in Tonga. The largest denomination is the Free Wesley Church of Tonga, which is headed by the Tongan monarch and claims one-third of the population as members. There are also smaller numbers of Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Seventh-Day Adventists, Mormons, and Polynesian Christian denominations. Tongan and English are the national languages. Tongan is similar to Samoan and was unwritten until the 19th century. English is taught as a second language in elementary and secondary schools, so most Tongans have some understanding of spoken and written English.


Hereditary absolute kings (known as Tu'i Tonga) have ruled in Tonga since the 10th century. Over the centuries the dynasty was split up so that by the early 19th century, three lines of kings all sought dominance. In 1831 Taufa'ahu Tupou united the islands by conquest and took the name George. As George Tupou I, he became ruler in 1845 and was made constitutional monarch in 1875. In 1900, during the reign of George II, the first treaty of friendship was concluded between the United Kingdom and Tonga. Tonga was made a British protectorate but had full freedom over internal affairs. In 1970, Tonga ceased being a protectorate and became an independent member of the Commonwealth of Nations. The 1875 constitution divided the government into three main branches: the sovereign, Privy Council, and cabinet; the Legislative Assembly; and the judiciary. The King-in-Council is the chief executive body, and the cabinet, presided over by the prime minister, makes executive decisions of lesser importance. King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV has ruled since December 1965. The prime minister is appointed by the king. Only nine of the 30 Legislative Assembly seats are determined by popular election (12 are reserved for cabinet ministers and nine are for nobles). A pro-democracy movement has gained support since 1993. The Supreme Court exercises jurisdiction in major civil and criminal cases. Other cases are heard in the Magistrate's Court or in Land Court.

Tonga's flag is crimson with a cross of the same color mounted in a white canton.

Arts, Science, Education

Primary education is compulsory for all Tongans, and there are over 100 public primary schools. Elementary education is conducted in Tongan, and English is also taught. Adult literacy is over 90%. There is a teacher training college. Hango Agricultural College is part of the Free Wesleyan Church Education System. Tonga Maritime Polytechnical Institute is located in Nuku'alofa.

Commerce and Industry

Tonga's main exports are copra (dried coconut meat) and other coconut products, bananas, and vanilla beans. Gourds (squash and pumpkins) have also become a major export crop (especially to the Japanese market), accounting for nearly half of all exports in 1995. Fishing is relatively undeveloped and has become more important in recent years. Tourism is a major source of foreign earnings, but the economy still relies on foreign aid.

The Tonga Chamber of Commerce can be reached at P.O. Box 838, Nuku'alofa, Tonga, South Pacific.


About 75% of Tonga's surfaced roads are on Tongatapu. There are no bridges, but causeways connect three islands in the Vava'u group.

Traffic moves on the left in Tonga. While roads in Nuku'alofa are paved, most other roads are not. Animals and unwary pedestrians walking in the road make night driving on unlit secondary roads hazardous.


Tonga Telecom has offices in Nuku'alofa, Pangai (Ha'apai), Neiafu (Vava'u), 'Ohonua ('Eua), and Hihifo (Niuatoputapu) where international telecommunications services are available. An internal radiotelephone system connects Nuku ' alofa, ' Eua, Nokuma, Ha'afeva, and Vava'u. Radio Tonga broadcasts in Tongan, English, Fijian, and Samoan. Television reception is available only by satellite. The government's Tonga Chronicle is the main weekly newspaper. There are also church newspapers and a few private publications.


Vaiola Hospital is located in Nuku'alofa. There is one government medical department hospital each in Tongatapu, Vava'u, Ha'apai, and 'Eua. Tongans receive medical and most dental treatment free of charge. Tuberculosis, filariasis, typhoid fever, dysentery, and various eye and skin diseases remain common health problems.


Passage, Customs & Duties

A passport and onward/return ticket are required. Visas are not required for stays up to 30 days. Tonga collects a departure tax. For further information about entry requirements, travelers, particularly those planning to enter by sea, may wish to contact the Consulate General of Tonga at 360 Post Street, Suite 604, San Francisco, California 94108; telephone 415-781-0365.

Tonga's customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Tonga of items such as firearms, explosives, motor vehicles, eggs, and certain types of alcohol. It is advisable to contact the Consulate General of Tonga in San Francisco for specific information regarding customs requirements.

U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry a copy of their U.S. passports with them at all times, so that, if questioned by local officials, proof of identity and U.S. citizenship are readily available. U.S. citizens who are detained are encouraged to request that a consular officer from the U.S. Embassy in Suva, Fiji be notified

There is no U.S. Embassy or other U.S. diplomatic or consular post in Tonga. Assistance for U.S. citizens in Tonga is provided by the U.S. Embassy in Fiji, which is located at 31 Loftus Street in Fiji's capital city of Suva. The telephone number is (679) 314-466; the fax number is (679) 314-466. Americans may register with the U.S. Embassy in Suva, Fiji and obtain up-to-date information on travel and security in Tonga from the Embassy. Information may also be obtained by visiting the Embassy's home page at


Jan. 1 New Year's Day

Mar/Apr. Good Friday*

Mar/Apr. Easter*

Mar/Apr. Easter Monday*

Apr. 25 ANZAC Day

May 4 Crown Prince's Birthday

June 4 Independence Day

July 4 King's Birthday

Nov. 4 Constitution Day

Dec. 4 Tupou I Day

Dec. 25 & 26 Christmas



Swaney, Deanna. Tongaa Travel

Survival Kit. Hawthorn, Victoria, Australia: Lonely Planet Publications, 1994.

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LOCATION: Southern Zambia

POPULATION: 1.3 million

LANGUAGE: Chitonga

RELIGION: Christianity combined with indigenous religious beliefs


The Tonga live in southern Zambia along the Zambezi River. The name Tonga is apparently from a word in the Shona language that means "independent."

Many other ethnic groups in southern Africa traditionally had centralized forms of government, but the Tonga recognized no chiefs. There were, however, certain people within Tonga society who had authority. The Sikatongo was a priest who made sure that the spirits would take care of the people and make the crops grow. In every neighborhood (a grouping of several villages), there was also a man called the Ulanyika, the owner of the land. The Ulanyika was usually the first settler in the neighborhood. He had some influence in his neighborhood, and hunters gave him part of every animal they killed there.

Like all the peoples of Zambia, the Tonga came under British rule at the end of the nineteenth century. Zambia gained independence in 1979 under the leadership of Dr. Kenneth Kaunda. He ruled until 1991, when he lost the presidential election to Frederick Chiluba, a trade-union activist.


The Tonga belong to the Bantu group of peoples. They are concentrated in southern Zambia along the Kafue River and Zambezi River. Most of the Tonga area has poor soil and irregular rainfall, which makes farming difficult. For the most part, the area is thinly populated.

The Tonga make up 15 percent (or 1.3 million) of Zambia's total population, which is currently estimated at 8.5 million people.


The Tonga belong to the Bantu language family. Their language is known as Chitonga. It contains many words that are similar to those in other Bantu languages such as Bemba, Chichewa, and Luyana. For example, "to write" in all three languages is kulemba. A chicken is known as a'nkoko in Bemba, nkuku in Luyana, nkhuku in Chichewa, and inkuku in Tonga. In all four languages, a traditional doctor is called ng'anga.


The Tonga have no written history from the time before British explorer David Livingstone arrived in the early 1850s. But like many other peoples in Africa, they have a rich tradition of oral history and folklore. In almost all the villages, elders are the keepers of mythical stories. The stories, usually with animal characters, are told around a fire at night. They convey traditional principles, values, and customs, as well as the origins of the Tonga people.

One of the stories deals with the beginning of Tonga society. A local tradition suggests that before the arrival of the British there was a powerful chief in the town of Monze. According to oral tradition, the first Monze chief descended from heaven. He called the Tonga people to join him and settle in his chiefdom. Most people liked the chief because he had the power to heal, to cause rain, and to keep the peace. He did that by frustrating enemies through his communication with the spirits of the ancestors.


In traditional Tonga society, there is a well-developed cult of the "shades," or muzimu. It is believed that at death each person leaves a shade or spirit, a muzimu. The muzimu commutes between the spirit world and the world of humans. Witchcraft and sorcery are also part of traditional beliefs.

Many Tonga have been converted to Christianity because of missionary work by Europeans. Missionaries demanded that the Tonga and other people give up traditional beliefs and practices such as polygamy (having more than one spouse), ancestor worship, and witchcraft. At first, there were only a few converts. In modern times, many Tonga practice both Christianity and traditional religious beliefs.


The major national holiday in Zambia is Independence Day on October 24. Zambia obtained its independence from Great Britain on that day in 1964. During this day every year, celebrations are arranged in major cities and throughout the countryside. There is much drinking, dancing, and singing. In the afternoon, people gather in stadiums to watch soccer matches.


In the past, most Zambian peoples had special initiation ceremonies and education for children as they reached adolescence. The Tonga did also, but their initiation ceremony was simpler than most. A girl trained for her future role as a man's wife. Usually, there was a period of living away from the village, and a short ceremony marked the girl's maturity. She was given a new name to signify her adult status.

A prospective husband had to pay bride-wealth to the family of his bride-to-be, usually in the form of cattle. After marriage, a couple lived in the husband's village. Polygamy (having more than one spouse) was traditionally encouraged, but this practice is dying out.

Among the Tonga, there is a strong belief that children must be taught and trained for adult life. Children are taught proper manners by older people. During their teenage years, boys and girls are encouraged to do their separate chores according to their sex. Girls' chores are to draw water from wells and fetch firewood, while boys hunt small game and fish. But there are times when boys do girls' chores, and vice versa.


Girls and boys who have not reached adolescence are encouraged to play together. People talk freely in the presence of children about matters such as menstruation, pregnancy, and childbirth. Most parents feel that sexual play between children of the same age is not a matter for concern. However, an older man or woman is not permitted to have a sexual relationship with a girl or boy.

When a boy who has reached adolescence decides to marry, he can find his own bride. However, he must tell his parents and uncles so that they can negotiate with the parents of the girl, since bride-wealth must be paid.

Married women are expected to respect and cook for their husbands, and men are expected to take care of their wives. In the presence of men, a woman is expected to observe traditional female etiquette such as looking downward and behaving humbly. Women are also expected to dress modestly, especially keeping their knees and thighs covered. However, in the cities many women have tried to maintain independence and resist men's control. Many stay single and earn their own living at a regular job or by doing some type of home-based work.


In colonial times, the Tonga participated fully in agriculture as a business. Early on, they were one of the few peoples to accept agricultural improvements such as ox-drawn plows and the use of fertilizer. Thus a relatively wealthy group of Tonga commercial farmers developed. There also developed a series of smaller cities along the railroad line, which helped create a rich class in the cities as well. Today, these Tonga have modern homes and, occasionally, cars.

In rural areas, people live in isolated homesteads or villages consisting of a few huts. In most cases, houses, granaries, and cattle kraals (corrals) are temporary structures that can be easily left behind when new fields must be cleared. With the coming of commercial farming and a cash economy, some modern, durable houses have been built. Their roofs are corrugated iron sheets.

As in other parts of Zambia, tropical diseases such as malaria, bilharzia, and intestinal worms are quite common among the Tonga.


Similar to many African societies, family among the Tonga extends to the wider extended unit rather than the nuclear family of wife, husband, and children. The extended family, much like a clan, shares many tasks, including farming and the provision of food. In times of trouble, such as famine and drought, the extended family serves as a safety net.

Bearing as many children as possible is important in a Tonga marriage. Children are valued for their labor and as "social security" for parents in old age. There is a feeling nowadays that modern city life has made families less stable and that the divorce rate is much higher than it used to be. Many women are staying single and breaking away from the traditional rules that kept women in a lower position.


Clothing among the Tonga is used to differentiate the sexes. As soon as children begin to run about, girls are given a dress or a skirt, while boys are given a shirt and a pair of shorts. Children are taught that boys and girls wear different types of clothes; thus, dress marks the beginning of sex identification. Some women in the cities do wear pants and shirts, but most women still prefer traditional women's clothing.


Most of the area in which the Tonga live is rural. Most people follow a subsistence way of life, growing food mainly for their own needs with little left over. Maize is the main staple; others include millet and sorghum. The diet consists of inshima (thick porridge), eaten with either meat and gravy or vegetables such as beans and pumpkin leaves. A group of relatives eat from the same dish. With their fingers, they break off a piece of inshima and dip it in gravy before eating it.


Most parents send their children to a nearby primary school. At school they learn a few basic subjects such as English, biology, and arithmetic. After eight years of primary school, some students are selected to attend high school, which is modeled on the British system of education. Subjects may include mathematics, chemistry, physics, and biology. The few lucky students who do extremely well in government examinations are selected to attend the university or different types of colleges.

In 1976, the government of Zambia made education free in the hope that more people would take advantage of this opportunity. The result has been a great increase in literacy (ability to read and write). Some parents, especially in the cities, value education highly and have great hopes for their children. In rural areas, however, children's labor is viewed as more important to daily living.


Music, dance, and literature are part of Tonga daily life. Grandparents tell stories around the evening fire passing on knowledge and principles to the children. Each story can have several different lessons for both the young and the old. The lessons may be as varied as how to act clever, how to be imaginative, how to be smart and get a beautiful girl's attention, how to be successful by working hard, and how to behave in certain situations.


Most of the Tonga people are subsistence farmers, with only a little surplus food to sell for money. They also raise cattle and goats. Livestock add to the diet but are mainly a source of wealth. Cattle are also important in paying bride-wealth for marriage.

Some local farmers who have adopted Western farming techniques have become relatively wealthy and are in a special class of their own.

Many educated city people find jobs in the government. Others find jobs as teachers, nurses, or office workers, Some work on the railway. Others sell fish, salt, sugar, and other basic products in open markets.


Even in the most remote parts of Tongaland, soccer (locally called "football") is the favored sport for boys and young men. There is usually a makeshift soccer field in each village. Whenever a ball is available, boys play soccer until they are exhausted. Schoolgirls like to play netball, a game somewhat like basketball. In well-equipped high schools, boys and girls participate in sports familiar to students in the West, such as tennis, badminton, and gymnastics. In rural areas, boys and girls make up games and play together when they have free time from household chores.


The most popular game among boys and girls who have not reached adolescence is playing house. Children build playhouses at the edge of the village and pretend they are adults. Girls take on the roles of women, and boys the roles of men. Girls do the cooking and boys come to eat the food.

Although game is rare, men still like to go out hunting and fishing in the nearby woodlands and rivers.

Drumming, singing, and dancing at beer parties, funerals, and naming ceremonies are frequent activities among the Tonga. At beer parties, men and women dance together.


Pottery, carvings, baskets, and mats are crafted by older men and women for use in their daily lives. Pots are made in various sizes for drawing water, cooking, brewing beer, and storing grain and other foods.


At the time when Zambians were demanding independence from British rule, one of the most famous politicians in Zambia was Harry Nkumbula, a school teacher from Tongaland. Alongside Bemba-speaking leaders such as Simon Kapwepwe and Kenneth Kaunda, he opposed colonial rule. In time, Nkumbula lost the support of Kaunda and Kapwepwe. He was pushed aside in the new, independent Zambia. Naturally, the Tonga were not pleased. Nkumbula continued to draw support from his ethnic group. It became a political force against President Kaunda. Although the government of Kaunda did not punish the Tonga openly, few Tonga were invited to join in national politics. Despite the ethnic hostility between the Tonga and the government leadership, however, human rights in Zambia have generally been better than in other African dictatorships.


Aldridge, Sally. The Peoples of Zambia. London, England: Heinemann Educational Books, 1978.

Burdette, M. Zambia: Between Two Worlds. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1988.

Holmes, Timothy. Zambia. New York: Benchmark Books, 1998.

Kaplan, Irving. Zambia: A Country Study. Washington, D.C.: The American University, 1984.

Karpfinger, Beth. Zambia Is My Home. Milwaukee: Gareth Stevens, 1993.

Lauré, Jason. Zambia. Chicago: Childrens Press, 1994.

Saha, Santosh C. History of the Tonga Chiefs and Their People in the Monze District of Zambia. New York: P. Lang, 1994.

Vickery, Kenneth Powers. Black and White in Southern Zambia: the Tonga Plateau Economy and British Imperialism, 18901939. New York: Greenwood Press, 1986.


Southern African Development Community. Zambia. [Online] Available, 1998.

World Travel Guide. Zambia. [Online] Available, 1998.

Zambian National Tourist Board. Zambia. [Online] Available, 1998.

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Official name: Kingdom of Tonga

Area: 748 square kilometers (289 square miles)

Highest point on mainland: Kao Island (1,033 meters/3,389 feet)

Lowest point on land: Sea level

Hemispheres: Southern and Western

Time zone: 1 a.m. (the following day) = noon GMT

Longest distances: 631 kilometers (392 miles) from north-northeast to south-southwest; 209 kilometers (130 miles) from east-southeast to west-northwest

Land boundaries: None

Coastline: 419 kilometers (260 miles)

Territorial sea limits: 22 kilometers (12 nautical miles)


Tonga, also known as the Friendly Islands, is an archipelago consisting of 171 islands in the South Pacific Ocean. Tonga is about one-third of the way from New Zealand to Hawaii. The nearest island groups are the Nieu Islands to the east, the Kermadec Islands to the south, Fiji to the west, and Wallis and Futuna to the north. Tonga's area of 748 square kilometers (289 square miles) is just over four times that of Washington, D.C.


Tonga has no territories or dependencies.


Most of Tonga is far enough from the equator to have a pleasant subtropical climate moderated by trade winds. There are only two real seasons: the warmer season, from December to May, and the cooler season from May to December. Temperatures range from 16°C to 21°C (60°F to 70°F) in the coolest months of June and July, and average 27°C (80°F) in December, the hottest month.

Rainfall and humidity increase from south to north. Average annual rainfall ranges from 160 centimeters (63 inches) in Tongatapu, to 221 centimeters (87 inches) in Vava'u, to 257 centimeters (101 inches) in Niuatoputapu.


From north to south, the islands are clustered in three major groups: Vava'u to the north, Ha'apai in the middle, and Tongatapu to the south. There is also a smaller, more remote group, called the Niuas, situated farther north, as well as individual islands both to the north and south.

Tonga's islands are the tops of submerged volcanoes, four of which are still active on the islands of Tofua and Niuafo'ou. The islands of all the groups, from north to south, align into two parallel rows. Those in the western row are purely volcanic in origin; those in the eastern row consist of submerged volcanoes capped by coral and limestone formations.


Tonga is located in the South Pacific Ocean.

Seacoast and Undersea Features

The South Pacific Ocean surrounding Tonga is very seismically active. The region's continuing seismic activity created a new island, called Metis Shoal, in 1995. The long underwater channel called the Tonga Trench is 10,800 meters (35,400 feet) deep. The trench, which reaches from Tonga to New Zealand, has one of the greatest ocean depths in the world. Several of Tonga's islands are formed from coral reefs, and there are many other submerged reefs in the surrounding waters, including the Minerva Reefs at the islands' southern end.

Sea Inlets and Straits

The Piha Passage separates the main island of the Tongatapu group from the smaller islands to its northeast.

Islands and Archipelagos

The northernmost island group, Vava'u, has thirty-four islands; the Ha'apai group in the middle has thirty-six. The Tongatapu group to the south is composed of the island of Tongatapu, one other major island ('Eua), two much smaller ones, and a number of reefs. With an area of 256 square kilometers (99 square miles), Tongatapu is the largest single island and the site of the kingdom's capital.

Coastal Features

Tonga has many white sandy beaches and magnificent swimming, diving, and snorkeling locations.


There are lakes on the islands of Vava'u, Nomuka, Tofua, and Niuafo'ou, some of which have waters that are very good for swimming, but none of which are of significant size.


Because it is immediately west of the International Dateline, Tonga is the first nation to greet each new day, leading to the saying "Tonga is where time begins." Tourists flocked to the islands on December 31, 1999, to be among the first to greet the new millennium.


Tonga has no rivers. The island of 'Eua has creeks, and there is a single stream on Niuatoputapu.


There are no deserts in Tonga.


Hills rising to elevations between 152 and 305 kilometers (500 and 1,000 feet) are found on islands in the Vava'u group.


Tonga's highest point is on Kao Island, in the central Ha'apai group, at an altitude of 1,033 meters (3,389 feet). A volcanic ridge on the island of 'Eua, the second-largest island in the Tongatapu group, rises to 329 meters (1,078 feet).


The island of 'Eua, in the Tongatapu group, has numerous limestone caves and sinkholes, and there are also caves in the Ha'apai and Vava'u island groups.


Tonga has no plateaus and no significant monoliths.


A mammoth thirteenth-century stone monument called the Ha'amonga'a Maui Trilithon is located at the easternmost end of the island of Tongatapu. There are also more than two dozen pyramid-shaped stone burial tombs on the island of Mu'a.



Ellem, Elizabeth Wood. Queen Salote of Tonga: The Story of an Era 1900-1965. Auckland, New Zealand: Auckland University Press, 1999.

Fletcher, Matt, and Nancy Keller. Tonga. London: Lonely Planet, 2001.

Rutherford, Noel, ed. Friendly Islands: A History of Tonga. New York: Oxford University Press, 1977.

Stanley, David. Tonga-Samoa Handbook. Emeryville, CA: Moon Publications, 1999.

Web Sites

Lonely Planet: Destination Tonga. (accessed April 11, 2003).

Tonga: The Kingdom of Ancient Polynesia. (accessed April 11, 2003).

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Tonga (tŏng´gə), officially Kingdom of Tonga, island kingdom (2005 est. pop. 112,000), 270 sq mi (699 sq km), South Pacific, c.2000 mi (3,220 km) NE of Sydney, Australia. Tonga is the only surviving independent kingdom in the South Pacific. Nukualofa is the capital.

Land, People, and Economy

The more than 150 islands constitute three main groups: Tongatapu (seat of the capital) in the south, Vavau in the north, and Haapai in the center. Several of the islands are volcanic, with active craters, but most are coral atolls. The climate is tropical. Most of the people are Polynesian and Christian (primarily Methodist). Tongan, a Polynesian language, and English are spoken. Squash, coconuts, bananas, vanilla beans, cocoa, coffee, ginger, and black pepper and kava are grown, and there is fishing. Tourism and remittances from Tongans working abroad are also important. Vegetables, vanilla beans, seafood, and kava are exported, while foodstuffs, machinery and equipment, fuels, and chemicals must be imported. The main trading partners are Japan, the United States, and New Zealand.


Tonga is governed under the constitution of 1875 as revised. The monarch is the head of state, and the government is headed by the prime minister, who is elected by the Legislative Assembly. The unicameral Legislative Assembly has 26 seats, 9 for nobles and 17 for representatives elected by popular vote; all serve four-year terms. Tonga is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. Administratively, the country is divided into the three island groups.


Archaeological evidence indicates that the islands of Tonga were settled c.830 BC, but the Polynesians are believed to have arrived some 400 years after that. The current ruling dynasty traces its rise to power to the 10th cent. Dutch navigators sighted the northern islands in 1616 and the rest of the group in 1643. Capt. James Cook visited the islands in 1773 and 1777 and named them the Friendly Islands. English missionaries arrived in 1797 and helped to strengthen British political influence. Internal wars in the early 19th cent. ended with the accession of King George Tupou I (1845–93), who unified the nation and gave it a constitution (1862), a legal code, and an administrative system. His successor, King George Tupou II (1893–1918) concluded a treaty making Tonga a British protectorate in 1900. Tonga remained self-governing, with the British responsible for foreign and defense affairs. Queen Salote Tupou III ruled from 1918 to 1965, when she was succeed by her son, King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV. A new treaty in 1968 reduced British controls, and complete independence was attained on June 4, 1970.

Since the late 1980s, Tongans have agitated for democratic reforms, but the king has generally opposed any change that would dilute the monarchy's power. In 2001 it was revealed that as much as $37 million in government funds had disappeared as a result of investment in a Nevada asset management company, and corruption within the royal family and government remains a problem. Amendments in 2003 to the constitution permit the restriction of freedom of speech, a move that was used to silence publications critical of the government, but parts of the amendments (and restrictive media laws passed in 2003) were subsequently declared void.

In 2005 two commoners were selected to join the cabinet for the first time, and in 2006 one (Fred Sevele) was appointed prime minister, also a first. In July–Sept., 2005, the nation experienced a civil service strike that turned into a call for democratic reform, but the strike was settled without any addressing of the broader political issues. King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV died in 2006, and George Tupou V succeeded him.

Frustration over the failure of the legislature to enact reforms led to rioting in the capital in Nov., 2006; many government offices and businesses were destroyed. Following the rioting, the government imposed a state of emergency that was not rescinded until Feb., 2011, and announced that there would be new legislative elections in 2008 and that a majority of the members of the legislature would be popularly elected. Subsequently, the government arrested a number of prodemocracy legislators on charges relating to the riots and moved to set back legislative reform to as late as 2010.

In the 2008 legislative elections, prodemocracy candidates, including incumbent legislators facing sedition charges dating from the 2006 riots, won two thirds of the popularly elected seats. In July, 2008, prior to the king's formal coronation, he announced that he would yield much of his power as part of a move toward democracy, but progress toward that goal was slow. The five legislators accused of seditious conspiracy had all their indictments dismissed in Sept., 2009, except for a seditious speech charge against one representative. A tsunami the same month devastated the northern island of Niuatoputapu.

In Nov., 2009, the constitutional commission issued its recommendations, which called for reducing the king's power, making the head of government answerable to the Legislative Assembly, and increasing the people's legislative representatives; in Apr., 2010, legislation increased the number of the people's representatives in future elections. In July, however, the judicial independence was undermined when the king was given control over the appointment of judges. In November, a prodemocracy party won a majority of the popularly elected seats, but an alliance of the noble representatives and independent representatives chose the new prime minister, Lord Tuivakano.

In Mar., 2012, the king died; his brother succeeded him as Tupou VI. A number of Tonga's islands suffered damage, in some cases devastation, from a cyclone (hurricane) in Jan., 2014. After the Nov., 2014, elections, Akilisi Pohiva, the longest serving commoner in the assembly and a champion of democratic reforms, was elected prime minister. Pohiva became the first commoner to serve in the office.

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Basic Data
Official Country Name: Kingdom of Tonga
Region: Oceania
Population: 102,321
Language(s): Tongan, English
Literacy Rate: 98.5%

The Kingdom of Tonga is located in the central South Pacific, east of Fiji and south of Samoa, and comprises more than 150 islands. Tonga is the only remaining Polynesian monarchy, and it has a population of 110,000 citizens (2000 estimate). Tongan, universally spoken, is a dialect of Polynesian; English, which is taught as a second language in schools, is used mainly for business. Wesleyan missionaries introduced formal education into Tonga in 1826, followed by Roman Catholic and other Protestant denominations beginning in 1846. The educational system still reflects this colonial/missionary history.

Primary education has been compulsory in Tonga since 1876 and is free for students between the ages of 6 and 14. Education consists of six years at the primary level, three years at the junior secondary level, and three years at the senior secondary level. The first eight years are compulsory. Of the 115 primary schools (1994), 104 were government schools, while 11 were church schools, with a total of 16,540 students and 701 teachers. In 1993, the student to teacher ratio among primary schools was 22:1, with 7 percent of the teachers being females.

In 1994, there were 47 general secondary schools or colleges, with a total of 15,702 students and 809 teachers. There were 8 technical and vocational colleges with 614 students and 45 teachers. The only teacher training college had 210 students and 22 teachers. Churches sponsored the majority of these schools. The student to teacher ratio among secondary schools averaged 18:1 in 1993 with 79 percent of the teachers being females.

Tertiary institutions include: the Institute for Vocational Education and Training, the Polytechnical Institute, the Teacher's College, Queen Salote School of Nursing, and the Tonga Police Training School. In 1985, a total of 705 students were enrolled in these programs: 211 in education, 100 in humanities, 192 in social sciences, 127 in natural sciences, and 75 in medical schools. Of these students, 308 were male and 397 were female. In 1990, there were 230 Tongan students studying overseas on government scholarships.

In 1992, education expenditures totaled 8.8 million pa'anga. Of this sum, 3.4 million was allocated to primary education, 2.1 million to secondary education, 0.6 million to tertiary education, and 2.6 million was not distributed. These public expenditures on education translated to 4.7 percent of the gross national product, or 17.3 percent of total government disbursement. Tongans view education as important and have a near-universal literacy rate (98.5 percent in 1996) that is among the highest in the Pacific.

The Government's Ministry of Education oversees the management of government schools in all provinces, including primary, secondary, and tertiary schools. In addition, it manages the adherence of private schools to the national laws on education and the National Examination programs. Annual examinations are required for placement of primary school students into government schools; the Tonga School Certificate is the national examination for secondary school students at their fifth year, and the Pacific Senior Secondary Certificate examination is given at the sixth year. Examinations and assessments are developed internally or delegated to an external source, but they are monitored and coordinated by this unit of government. Examinations are set in the English language with a strong emphasis at the college level on maintaining knowledge and skills of the Tongan culture.


Regional Surveys of the World, The Far East and Australasia 2000, 31st Ed. London: Europa Publications, 2000.

United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization: Institute for Statistics, September 2000. Available from

The Statesman's Yearbook: The Politics, Cultures, and Economies of the World, 13th Ed. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2001.

Tonga on the Net. Convictions and Schools, 2001. Available from

Sanna J. Thompson

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Basic Data

Official Country Name: Kingdom of Tonga
Region (Map name): Oceania
Population: 102,321
Language(s): Tongan, English
Literacy rate: 98.5%

Tonga, an archipelago of more than 170 islands in the South Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and New Zealand, is the only remaining Polynesian monarchy. Formerly known as the Friendly Islands, the area united as a single kingdom in 1845 but became a British protectorate in 1900. Independence came in 1970. Its population is approximately 104,000. The official languages are English and Tongan, and the literacy rate is 98.5 percent. A monarch serves as the chief of state, and a Prime Minister heads the government, presiding over a unicameral, 30-seat Fale Alea, or Legislative Assembly. The position of Prime Minister is a life appointment made by the monarch. Tonga's small economy is anchored by agriculture, especially squash, coconuts, bananas and vanilla beans. Tourism is the country's main source of hard currency earnings.

Freedom of press and speech are limited. Some privately owned newspapers carry opposition views, but journalists have been harassed and threatened with criminal charges. State-owned radio and television stations often favor government policy, and independent broadcast media offer little independent local coverage. There is no daily newspaper, but there are three weeklies. The Tonga Chronicle (Ko e Kalonikali Tonga) is a government-owned newspaper that appears on Fridays. It publishes two editions, one in Tongan with a circulation of 5,000, and one in English with a circulation of 1,500. The Times of Tonga (Taimi o Tonga) is an independent weekly that publishes on Monday. Most articles are in Tongan, but English is also used. It maintains a news bureau in Tonga, but the newspaper is actually printed in New Zealand. It is available online through its own Web site and the Planet Tonga Web portal. Lao moe Hia highlights sensational court cases involving Tongans at home and abroad. It publishes in Tongan only. The Tonga Star is an independent online news Web site featuring national and international news. Ko e Keléa, also independent, publishes bimonthly in Tongan and English, and enjoys a circulation of 5,000. There are also several monthly newspapers issued by church organizations.

There are three radio stations, one AM and one FM, serving 61,000 radios, and there is one television station broadcasting to 2,000 televisions. There is also one Internet service provider.


Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). "Tonga." World Factbook (2001). Available from

"CocoNET Wireless," The University of Queensland, Australia (1997). Available from

"Country Profile: Tonga." BBC News. Available from

"The News Media in the Kingdom of Tonga," Tonga on the 'Net. Available from tonga/news/default.htm.

Tonga Star, (2002) Home Page. Available from http://

"Tonga Times," Planet Tonga (2002). Available from

Jenny B. Davis

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Tonga (Friendly Islands) South Pacific island kingdom, c.2200km (1370mi) ne of New Zealand. The archipelago consists of c.170 islands in five administrative groups. Only 36 of the islands are inhabited. They are mainly coral atolls, but the w group are volcanic, with some active craters. The largest island is Tongatapu, the seat of the capital, Nukualofa, and home to 66% of the population. The n islands were discovered by Europeans in 1616, and the rest by Abel Tasman in 1643. During the 19th century, British missionaries converted the indigenous population to Christianity. In 1900, Tonga became a British Protectorate. In 1970, the country achieved independence. The economy is dominated by agriculture, the chief crops are yams, tapioca and fish. Area: 748sq km (289sq mi). Pop. (1996) 97,446.;

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"Tonga." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved December 11, 2017 from



Culture Name


Alternative Names

Friendly Islands


Identification. The name "Tonga" is composed of to (to plant) and nga (a place). It also means "south." According to the most recent archaeological findings, people arrived in the archipelago from Fiji around 1500 b.c.e. Thus, it is appropriate to translate the nation's name as "land lying in the south."

Location and Geography. Tonga is an archipelago of one hundred fifty islands, thirty-six of which are inhabited. There are four major groups of islands: the Tongatapu, Ha'apai, Vava'u, and Niua groups. Most of the islands are raised coral islands, some are volcanic, and a few are atolls. Coral beaches lined with palm trees and emerald lagoons with luxuriant tropical vegetation are characteristic features. The capital, Nuku'alofa, is on Tongatapu.

Demography. The population was 97,784 according to the 1996 census. Since 1891, the growth rate has increased steadily, peaking in the 1950s and 1960s. Migration to New Zealand, Australia, and the United States in the 1970s and 1980s resulted in slower growth. Internal migration has been from the outer, northern, and central islands toward the southern island of Tongatapu. A third of the population (31,404) lives in the capital.

Linguistic Affiliation. Tongan is an Austronesian language of the Oceanic subgroup. It belongs to the Western Polynesian languages, specifically the Tongic group. There are three social dialects: one for talking to the king, one for chiefs and nobles, and one for the common people. "Talking chiefs" are among the few who know all three dialects; they mediate in official ceremonies and in encounters between the king, the nobility, and the commoners.

Seventy years as a British protectorate (until 1970) resulted in widespread knowledge of English. Though much of the village population knows little English, in Nuku'alofa and other major towns, most business transactions are conducted in it. English is taught in elementary schools and is the language of most high school instruction. However, Tongan is the language commonly spoken in the streets, shops, markets, schools, offices, and churches.

History and Ethnic Relations

Emergence of the Nation. The Tongan creation myth describes how the islands were fished from the ocean by Maui, one of the three major gods. Another myth explains how 'Aho'eitu became the first Tu'i Tonga (king). He was the son of a human female and the god Tangaloa. Human and divine at the same time, the Tu'i Tonga was the embodiment of the Tongan people, and this is still a powerful metaphor.

Tongans were fierce warriors and skilled navigators whose outrigger canoes could carry up to two hundred people. For centuries they exercised political and cultural influence over several neighboring islands. By the time of the first European contact in late 1700s and early 1800s, the empire had collapsed, and the authority of the Tu'i Tonga was restricted mostly to the religious realm.

National Identity. King George Tupou I, the first king of modern Tonga, introduced the constitution in 1875 after unifying the four island groups. He had previously converted to Christianity and opportunistically waged expansionist wars from Ha'apai to Vava'u and then to Tongatapu. Christian principles characterize the constitution, which very likely was prepared under the influence of Wesleyan missionaries. George Tupou I transformed Tonga into a modern state, abolishing slavery and the absolute power of chiefs. Since the last Tu'i Tonga had no official heir, as the head of the other two royal lines, King George became the only king of Tonga. The 1875 constitution recognizes only his royal line.

In 1900, the British granted Tonga's request for protectorate status. In 1970, all powers were restored to the Tongan monarchy. The British protectorate shielded Tonga from other colonizing powers. A spirit of independence and pride was nurtured during the long reign of Queen Salote (19181965), who led the nation into the twentieth century, paying special attention to preserving its heritage. Because of her vision, Tongan culture is an integral part of the school curriculum. Students learn Tongan history, traditional poetry, music, and dancing, along with wood carving, mat weaving, and bark cloth making.

Urbanism, Architecture, and the Use of Space

The first European visitors spoke of a population scattered throughout a densely cultivated land. Now Tongans are concentrated in villages and small towns. Most villages lie around an empty area, called mala'e, that is used for social gatherings and games. A traditional house stands on a raised platform of stones and sand. It is oval in shape with a thatched roof and walls of woven palm tree panels. The toilet and the kitchen are in separate huts. Contemporary houses are usually bigger and made of timber with corrugated iron roofs. Little furniture is used.

The simplicity of house architecture contrasts with the monumentality of earlier royal buildings and tombs. The royal tombs are layered pyramidal structures built of massive stone slabs. The huge Ha'amonga trilithon, made of two stone columns topped with a notched column, was built around 1200 c.e. One hypothesis suggests that it was the door to the royal compound, and another that it was used for astronomical purposes. These monuments bear witness to the power of the Tu'i Tonga. They also indicate the sophisticated stone-cutting technology and skills of the ancient craftsmen.

Food and Economy

Food in Daily Life. Both in villages and in the main towns, food is the occasion for a family gathering only at the end of the day. Otherwise, food is consumed freely at any time. The basic staples are root crops like taro accompanied by fried or roasted meat or fish. Taro leaves are one of the various green vegetables used together with a variety of tropical fruits like bananas, pineapples, and mangoes.

Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. The ritual of kava drinking characterizes both formal and daily events. Kava is prepared by grinding dried roots and mixing the powder with water in a ceremonial bowl. It is nonalcoholic but slightly narcotic. People sit cross-legged in an elliptical pattern whose long axis is headed by the bowl on one side and by the highest-ranked participant on the other. The preparation and serving of the drink are done by a young woman, usually but not always the only female participant, or by male specialists. The formal coronation of a ruler and formal receptions for foreign delegations are marked by a kava ceremony. Kava clubs are found in the towns, and kava drinking gatherings take place almost daily in the villages.

Basic Economy. The economy centers on agriculture and fishing. Major exports are vanilla, fish, handicrafts, and pumpkins grown for export to Japan. King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV has modernized the country's economy. Based largely on foreign aid from New Zealand, Australia, the United States, and the European Community and on imports, this process has created a widespread presence of Western products. The agricultural base of the economy remains. The tourist industry is growing, and revenues from Tongans working abroad are one of the largest sources of income.

Typical agricultural produce are root crops such as taro, tapioca, sweet potatoes, and yams. Coconuts, bananas, mangoes, papayas, pineapples, watermelons, peanuts, and vegetables are grown. Pigs and fowl are abundant and free ranging. Cows, sheep, and goats also are present. Intensive shellfishing is conducted along the shores, and there is an abundant fish supply.

Royal visits and funerals call for the preparation of large amounts of food. Roasted piglets are laid in the center of a pola (tray) made of woven palm tree leaves. Root crops, meats, and shellfish prepared in the 'umu (underground oven) are added and garnished with fresh fruits, decorative flowers, ribbons, and balloons. In villages, food is consumed while one sits on a mat; in towns, tables are used.

Land Tenure and Property. All land is owned by the king, the nobles, and the government. Foreigners cannot own land by constitutional decree. Owners have the right to sublet land to people who pay a tribute, traditionally food. Every citizen above age 16 is entitled to lease eight and a quarter acres of land from the government for a small sum, but the growing population and its concentration in the capital make it increasingly difficult to exercise this right.

Social Stratification

Classes and Castes. Traditional society had at its top the ha'a tu'i (kings), followed by the hou'eiki (chiefs), ha'a matapule (talking chiefs), kau mu'a (would-be talking chiefs), and kau tu'a (commoners). All titles were heritable and followed the male line of descent almost exclusively. This hierarchical social structure is still essentially in place.

Tribute to the chiefs was paid twice a year. Agricultural produce and gifts such as butchered animals, bark cloth, and mats were formally offered to the Tu'i Tonga and, through him, to the gods in an elaborate ceremony called 'inasi. The king now visits all the major islands at least once a year on the occasion of the Royal Agriculture Show. The gift giving and formalities at the show closely resemble those of the 'inasi.

The 1875 constitution eliminated the title of chief and introduced the title of nopele (noble), which was given to thirty-three traditional chiefs. Only nobles and the king are now entitled to own and distribute land. An increasingly market-oriented economy and an expanding bureaucracy have recently added a middle class that runs the gamut from commoners to chiefs. Newly acquired wealth, however, does not easily overcome social barriers rooted in history. Often claims to higher social status are established by claiming kinship to holders of aristocratic titles.

Political Life

Government. The Kingdom of Tonga is a constitutional monarchy. The constitution prescribes a legislative assembly with twenty members representing the thirty-three nobles and twenty members elected as people's representatives. In 1984, both groups were reduced to nine each. Twelve other members are appointed by the king: ten Cabinet members including the prime minister, who is also the governor of Tongatapu, and the governors of Ha'apai and Vava'u. In the 1993 election, six of the people's representatives belonged to the new Pro-Democracy Movement that in 1994 became the Democratic Party founded by 'Akilisi Pohiva.

The kingdom is divided into districts, each headed by a district officer. Every three years, each village elects a town officer who represents the government and holds village meetings (fono ) where government regulations are made known. Every villager above 16 years of age is entitled to attend. People do not take part in the decision-making process but show approval or dissent through their implementation of the instructions.

Social Welfare and Change Programs

Every citizen is entitled to free primary education, a plot of land at age 16, and free medical care. Hospitals, dispensaries, and pharmacies are distributed over the territory. Smaller government clinics are present in some villages in the outer islands.

To support the modernization of the country, in 1977 the Tongan Development Bank was established. Financed by the World Bank and contributions from New Zealand and Australia, it provides low-interest loans for entrepreneurs. Foreigners who want to invest in the country need a Tongan partner for any economic venture.

Nongovernmental Organizations and Other Associations

The U.S. Peace Corps, the Japanese Overseas Cooperation Volunteers, and development organizations connected with the British, New Zealand, and Australian governments are among the active aid agencies. They work in the fields of education, health, agriculture, and entrepreneurship.

Gender Roles and Statuses

Division of Labor by Gender. The introduction of wage labor in twentieth century privileged men, altering an equilibrium between genders that had lasted for centuries. Cash is now an element of wealth, and wage-earning men have easier access to it. However, the old egalitarian attitude toward the two sexes has not been altered by economic and technological changes. In contemporary offices, shops, and banks, working women are prominent. In villages, most men take care of the land or tend animals. Women weave mats and make bark cloth.

Both women and men actively participate in parenting. Food preparation is shared between the male and female members of a family. The preparation of the 'umu (underground oven), now restricted to Sundays and special occasions, is an almost exclusive male activity. Older children help with activities and household chores.

The Relative Status of Women and Men. The hierarchical system's emphasis on the higher status of females guarantees an equal role in society for females and males in spite of the fact that men usually inherit titles and land.

Marriage, Family, and Kinship

Marriage. There are no explicit rules for marriage, and couples are formed through reciprocal free choice. Pronounced social stratification discourages marriages between people of vastly different social status. Divorce is legal and not uncommon. During a wedding, the two kainga involved exchange mats, bark cloth, and food. On the day of the ceremony, the bride and groom "wear their wealth." They are wrapped in their best mats and bark cloth, their bodies shine with precious oils, and they wear flower necklaces and hair adornments.

Kin Groups. Kinship ties are of paramount importance. The two major kin groups are famili (family) and kainga (extended family). A famili consists of a married couple and their children living in the same house and usually includes male and/or female collaterals and affinals. The 'ulumotu'a (head of the family) presides over this group. A kainga consists of relatives living in different households in the same village or in several villages. They are related by bilateral relationships of consanguinity in a cognatic system. Membership in kin groups is restricted to fewer and closer relatives than it was in the past.

The parameters in establishing hierarchy at any level of society are gender and age. A female is always considered higher in rank than a male. Inheritance of land and titles goes through the male line, and primogeniture rule usually is enforced. Because of traditional brother-sister avoidance, 10-year-old boys sleep in a separate house. Though avoidance is less strictly enforced now, it still affects daily life. Topics such as sex and activities such as watching videos are not shared between brothers and sisters.


Infant Care and Child Rearing. The birth of a child is among the most important events, but the official social introduction of a child to the community is celebrated only at the end of a child's first year. Mothers increasingly give birth in modern hospitals, and infant mortality has decreased. Infants typically are breast-fed and sleep in their parents' bed until age 5 to 8 years. Parents are the main caretakers, but in an extended family everybody contributes to parenting. This feeling of shared parenting extends as far as the village and even further. Older siblings often care for younger ones, but compulsory education has made this practice less common.

Tongans are proud of their almost 100 percent level of literacy. Government high schools limit enrollment by using a competitive examination and charging fees. Those who are not admitted can attend private religious high schools. There is a branch of the University of the South Pacific on Tongatapu. Sia'atoutai Theological College trains teachers. 'Atenisi University, a private institution in Nuku'alofa, offers degrees in the humanities.

Adoption is common. An older couple whose children have left to form their own families may adopt from a younger couple with many children. A couple may decide to give a child to a relative of higher social or economic status, and many parents who work abroad leave their children with relatives. Children are present in private or public events and are almost never forbidden to look, observe, and learn.

The most important life events are celebrated with elaborate ceremonies that may last weeks in the case of weddings or funerals of royalty or nobles. These events include a complex pattern of gift exchanges; the preparation, consumption, and distribution of a large quantity of food; and speech giving. Pieces of bark cloth, mats, kava roots, and food are exchanged. Speakers use an elaborate figurative language.


Formal attire for men includes a tupenu (skirt) and a ta'ovala (mat) worn around one's waist and kept in place by a belt of coconut fiber. Prestigious old belts made of human hair also are used. A shirt with a tie and a jacket complete the attire. Women wear long dresses and ta'ovala as well. The softness, color, and decorations of a ta'ovala indicate status and wealth.

People shake hands when they meet, and relatives kiss by pressing each other's noses against their faces and soundly inhaling through the nose. The men preparing the 'umu or roasting for a big feast do not eat with the guests and are allowed at the table only when the first round of people has finished eating and left. Most food is eaten with the hands, although silverware also is used. It is customary to wash one's hands at the beginning and end of a meal.

The gesture of raising the eyebrows in conversation expresses one's understanding of the speaker's speech and is an invitation to continue. It is difficult for people to admit failure in understanding or to respond negatively to requests.


Religious Beliefs. Christian churches exist in even the most remote villages. Bells or log drums call people for services at the crack of dawn. After a failed attempt by Wesleyan missionaries to Christianize the islands in 1797, they and other Christian missionaries were more successful in the mid-nineteenth century. Forty-four percent of Tongans belong to the Free Wesleyan Church. Wesleyanism is also the official religion of the state and the monarchy. Among the other major churches are the Roman Catholic Church (16.3 percent), the Church of Latter Day Saints (12.3 percent), the Free Church of Tonga (11.4 percent), the Church of Tonga (7.5 percent), Seventh-Day Adventist Church (2.3 percent), and Anglican Church (0.6 percent).

Medicine and Health Care

Traditional medicine exists alongside Western medicine in the person of the faito'o (native doctor). Knowledge about medicine is passed on from parent to child. The faito'o uses mainly herbal medicines. No payment is required for treatment, but gifts are given at the beginning or end of the cure. Massage is also used. Sometimes in the outer islands traditional medicine is the only defense against a number of diseases. Although people recognize the effectiveness of Western medicine, traditional medicine is highly respected.

Secular Celebrations

Besides Constitution Day (4 November) and Emancipation Day (4 June), the major secular holiday is the king's birthday on 4 July. Nobles and chiefs from all over the kingdom present gifts to the king in a ceremony adjacent to the royal palace. The capital is adorned with festive arches covered with fragrant flowers under which floats parade. After the parade, people feast and light bonfires.

The Arts and Humanities

Graphic Arts. Women make bark cloth that can reach fifty feet in length and fifteen feet in width. The design of the carved tablets used to decorate bark cloth is traditionally purely geometrical. Naturalistic figures such as trees, flowers, and animals are also used. Women also weave mats and make flax baskets. Color, thinness, and the number of threads used determine the quality of a mat. The uniformity and consistency of the patterns reveal a weaver's skill. These activities are always conducted in groups while talking, gossiping, or singing.

Men carve wood, black coral jewelry, and objects made of turtle shell or whalebone. Seeds, shells, and fresh flowers are woven into necklaces by both sexes.

Performance Arts. Choral singing is done in churches and kava clubs. Singing is part of the more holistic traditional art of faiva, the blending of dance, music, and poetry. The punake (master poet) composes pieces that combine music, text, and body movements. Traditional dances include the Me'etu'upaki (paddle dance), the Tau'olunga (solo dance), and the Lakalaka (line dance).


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Web Sites

"Tonga on the Net."

"Tonga Online."

"UN System-Wide Earthwatch Web Site: Island DirectoryTonga."

Giovanni Bennardo

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Tonga is a group of volcanic islands, forming an independent kingdom within the Commonwealth. It lies to the east of Fiji in the South Pacific and exists on fishing and the export of copra and bananas. Cook, who visited several islands on his second and third voyage in the 1770s, called them the Friendly Islands.

J. A. Cannon

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TONGA. A country in Oceania and member of the COMMONWEALTH, consisting of 170 islands due south of Western Samoa. Languages: Tongan, English (both official). Tonga was a British protectorate from 1900 until independence in 1970.

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tonga two-wheeled vehicle used in India. XIX. — Hindi tāngā.

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tongabanger, clanger, ganger, hangar, hanger, haranguer, Sanger, Stavanger •headbanger • doppelgänger •straphanger • cliffhanger •paperhanger •bringer, clinger, flinger, humdinger, pinger, ringer, singer, slinger, springer, stinger, stringer, swinger, winger, wringer, zinger •Schrödinger • mud-slinger •gunslinger • bell-ringer • klipspringer •Helsingor •prolonger, tonga, wronger •ponga

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