views updated May 18 2018


ETHNONYM: Union Islands


Identification. "Tokelau" (Anglicized as "Tokelauan") refers both to the people and to their distinctive Polynesian language, as well as to their homeland which consists of three atolls: Atafu, Nukunonu, and Fakaofo. "Tokelau" means "north" or "northeast" in many Polynesian languages, including their own, but it was also the name of the preeminent god of the atolls, Tui Tokelau. The name "Union Islands" was coined in 1841 to label collectively the three atolls then known to outsiders as Duke of York (Atafu), Duke of Clarence (Nukunonu), and D'Wolf or Bowditch (Fakaofo). These names were never used by Tokelauans but were "Official" for over a hundred years until the three islands, with their local names, were collectively designated Tokelau Islands in 1948 and in 1976 simply Tokelau.

Location. The atolls lie along a northwest-southeast axis of about 150 kilometers between 8° and 10° S and 171° and 173° W. The closest islands of any size are those of Western Samoa, about 480 kilometers to the south. Together the atolls have a total land area of only about 12 square kilometers and are separated from each other by 60 to 90 kilometers of open sea. They are all true atolls: they have central lagoons completely enclosed by coral reef, which forms the base of islets of sand and coral detritus. Although rainfall is 250 to 280 centimeters annually, rain is apt to be scarce between April and September, causing drought, and tropical cyclones or the swells generated by them at a distance are a hazard between December and March.

Demography. Contact estimates of the population varied widely (500-1,000). Even the lowest figure was more than halved in the 1860s by the advent of slavers and dysentery. From that time the population of the atolls gradually and then rapidly increased, reaching a high of 1,900 persons in the mid-1960s. Thereafter it dropped and stabilized at around 1,600 in the 1970s-1980s following relatively heavy migration to New Zealand, where the population identified as Tokelau numbered about 3,400 in 1986. Although Tokelau people count among their more recent ancestors some other Polynesians and European-derived foreigners, only persons with (or married to people with) Tokelau ancestry are Permanent residents of the atolls.

Linguistic Affiliation. The Tokelau language is a member of the Samoic Subgroup of Polynesian languages and is probably most closely related to dialects of Tuvalu (Ellice). Until very recently, all Tokelauans were bilingual in Samoan, the language of Christianity and literacy, from which their own language has borrowed heavily for over a hundred years while still retaining its own distinctive features.

History and Cultural Relations

Tokelau traditions assert autochthonous origins; provisional archaeological evidence shows people residing in the atolls one thousand years ago with Samoan and Tuvalu cultural affinities. Oral narratives tell of hostilities among the three atolls which ended when Fakaofo gained ascendancy by conquering Nukunonu and driving off the people of Atafu; until the nineteenth century, explorers found Atafu uninhabited, Nukunonu lightly peopled, and Fakaofo clearly preeminent as the place of the highest chief and the shrine of Tui Tokelau. Christian conversion and depopulation in the 1860s brought an end to Fakaofo domination, and each atoll became a tiny theocratic polity. Mission dominance was marginally compromised at the end of the century when the atolls were declared British protectorates. For a brief period (1910-1914) protectorate officials were assigned to the atolls, and in 1916 Tokelau was added to the Gilbert and Ellice Island Colony, then removed when New Zealand assumed responsibility for the atolls on Britain's behalf in 1926. Despite these arrangements, the administration of Tokelau is best characterized as benign neglect until after World War II. Tokelauans received New Zealand citizenship in 1948, but they did not begin to emigrate there until the 1960s, some on government schemes of various kinds. Aid and development programs escalated in the mid-1970s, accompanied by increasing involvement of Tokelauans in administrative and decision-making roles. This trend continued in the 1980s, yet Tokelau remains a New Zealand dependency at its inhabitants' expressed and reiterated wish.


On one leeward islet of each atoll is a clearly bounded village. Rectangular houses, until recently of thatch construction, are more or less aligned to well-defined paths. The villages are densely settled yet the open houses give a sense of spaciousness. At the lagoon shore, reclamations faced with coral bouldersfrom which extend over-water latrinesalternate with natural shores where vessels are beached. The ocean or back of the village is the preferred location for cook houses. Here the prevailing winds carry smoke out to sea. Village amenitieschurch, meetinghouse, and cricket pitchtend to be clustered in the center, while recently constructed public structurescopra sheds, hospitals, and schoolsare located at the peripheries.


Subsistence and Commercial Activities. The Tokelau have always had coconuts and fish in abundance. Fishing is strictly a subsistence pursuit and the catches are widely distributed by both formal and informal means. Fishing techniques are ingenious and various, and knowledge of them and of the sea and its denizens is extensive and highly valued. Coconuts are harvested both for subsistence and for sale in the form of copra. Indeed, until the recent development of an extensively subsidized public-service sector, copra was the main source of cash with which to purchase imported essentials, such as kerosene, soap, tobacco, cloth, flour, rice, and sugar. With more cash from wages there are now more imports, which are purchased from a cooperative village store rather than from trading ships. For subsistence, aside from fish, Coconuts, and imports, there are breadfruit, pandanus fruit, and swamp taro (pulaka ). For cash there has always been some handicraft production, primarily plaited mats, hats, fans, and baskets made by women.

Industrial Arts. Until the early 1970s, both canoes and houses were made almost exclusively of local materials. Early European accounts describe double-hulled, oceangoing sailing canoes and an extensive range of nets, lines, hooks, and other fishing equipment, including watertight wooden boxes (tuluma ), as well as matting and other plaited wares. Imported substitutes are now widely used, although a number of traditional items are produced for sale.

Trade. There is no internal market for local products. People request what they need from others and give to neighbors and kin. A formal and versatile system of absolutely equal sharing, both in receiving and providing, operates in the Village. Since the latter part of the nineteenth century, copra has been the major export crop of the atolls.

Division of Labor. What is regularly done by men or women, young or old, is clear. Men fish and harvest, doing most of their work outside; women process and allocate food and oversee the home and family. Children fetch and carry; young adults undertake the most arduous tasks; elders are managers.

Land Tenure. Aside from land vested in the village or one of the churches, all land in Tokelau is controlled by recognized cognatic kin groups who jointly tend and harvest its resources and share its produce. Their land includes one or more house sites within the village, where mature female members of the group normally reside. Everyone in Tokelau has rights to land (or has a spouse with such rights) and thus shares the produce from one or more joint holdings. Since all offspring receive rights from both parents, a person's joint holdings are multiple and the people with rights to any one holding may be many. Such holdings are eventually divided and combined with others likewise divided, thus reducing people's multiple rights and the number of right holders.


Kin Groups and Descent. Descent is thoroughly cognatic both in principle and practice, and the sister-brother relationship is central. Landholding kin groups are composed of anyone who can trace descent by any route from their founders, and they are internally divided into "sons and their issue" and "daughters and their issue" with reference to the sons and daughters of the founding ancestor or ancestral couple. From the side of the "sons" the head of the "family" is selected. He represents the group in villagewide matters and has authority over the productive property of the group. The "daughters" side provides the woman known as the "foundation" of the family. She resides in the ancestral home and allocates produce from family property among its members.

Kinship Terminology. A Hawaiian-type system is modified by the same-sex or opposite-sex distinction in sibling terms so that there are three such terms: sibling of own sex, male or female; sibling of opposite sex, male; and sibling of opposite sex, female. Correspondingly, "mother's brother" and "sister's child" are marked terms, as is "father's sister."

Marriage and Family

Marriage. Postmarital residence is uxorilocal or, as Tokelauans phrase it, "women stay and men go." Tokelauans assert that second cousins cannot marry, though in fact some have done so. The rule is that people who hold common rights to property do not marry. Since second cousins tend to belong to a common kin group, they are thus usually unmarriageable, as third or fourth cousins may also be. If such cousins do marry, then the property held in common is divided, and the rule is upheld: They are no longer kin. De facto unions are not tolerated in the villages and the majority of Marriages are village-endogamous.

Domestic Unit. The nature and composition of domestic units is not easy to define. Each focuses on a mature woman, married or widowed, who runs the household by directing the activities of others, especially younger women and children. It is not an exclusive production and consumption unit because its members work with various kin groups and receive goods and produce from several kin groups. It is the regular sleeping place of some members, but grown boys rarely sleep at home, children frequently sleep with other close kin, and visitors or a birth within the given household or a related one may precipitate a major shift. Households thus are variable and flexible in their composition, but because of the dense, open Village settlement it is well known where any person is at any given time.

Inheritance. When property is divided within a kin group it is divided in the names of the founders' children, either living or dead, in equitable shares. The actual division may entail considerable negotiation among spokespersons of the recipient groups, and once the initial division is made it is possible for recipients to redivide the property at the level of the subsequent generation.

Socialization. Infants are much indulged. They are weaned at about a year and a half, or as soon as the mother becomes pregnant again, and they take second place when a new infant appears. The interval between births is properly two years or longer, so each child has at least two years of indulgence. From an early age, children are directed to fetch and carry. The increasing range of these directed activities depends on their verbal skills, for messages accompany goods and must be transmitted accurately. Children are closely disciplined to do as they are told and follow instructions precisely. Misbehavior may be punished by any adult and punishment may be severe.

Sociopolitical Organization

Tokelau is a dependency of New Zealand. Its administrator, based in New Zealand, is appointed by the governor-general on the recommendation of the ministry of foreign affairs. The administrator delegates normal administrative responsibility to the official secretary, since 1987 a Tokelauan, who is head of the Tokelau Public Service and based in Western Samoa. General meetings of elected officials and representatives in the atolls are held twice yearly. Real governance is at the village level.

Social Organization. Tokelau villages are very tightly Controlled and basically egalitarian. This order is achieved by a dominating age hierarchy based on the precept that wisdom is acquired with years and therefore elderly people should decide, direct, and supervise. In short, authority comes with age, and in principle anyone will have authority in due course, if he or she lives long enough. Men ultimately have a wider sphere of authority than women, controlling the affairs of the village as a whole. But Tokelau matrons can be very domineering and are not easily dismissed by their male counterparts.

Political Organization. Each village has a ruling council made up of male elders and/or heads of recognized kin groups. Two elected officials are part of this body: a political representative of the village to the administration and the mayor or manager of village activities. In the villages, the council has very considerable authoritymaking local regulations and enforcing them and deciding, directing, and regulating all village activities. Numerous other groups operate in the village context under the direction of the council. The male work force, made up of all able adult men, maintains and improves village amenities, provides food for the village and/or its guests, etc., at the direction of the elders or at their own initiative. The women of the village complement the male work force, undertaking tasks and projects in the female domain such as mat plaiting and village housekeeping under the direction of the elderly matrons. For other purposes, each village is divided into two competing sides. Organized groups within the churches partially replicate the secular organization (e.g., deacons or elders and women's committees). More ephemeral groups are organized from time to time and are recognized by the elders as "clubs" of one kind or another. This scheme of village organization applies to all three Villages, but it takes particular forms in each. Interatoll political organization was virtually nonexistent until the 1970s. Gatherings at one village traditionally included ceremonial events such as church openings and cricket matches, and though these had political undercurrents arising from historical antagonisms, the antagonisms were muted by many specific loyalties based on kinship links between villages. Now that Tokelau has more say in running its own affairs, each village is watchful that another does not get more than its share of jobs, aid funds, etc. The twice-yearly general meetings rotate between the atolls, are chaired by the hosting village, and are true forums where the interests of the three villages are intensely negotiated. It is notable that atoll parochialism is just as intense, if not more so, in the New Zealand Tokelau communities.

Social Control. It is impossible in a small atoll village for any person's comings and goings to be unobserved. Everyone knows what everyone else is doing and speculates about what they are going to do. People's activities are programmed and closely monitored by the elders of the village and their elder kin. Self-serving and aggressive behavior is socially condemned, and public disputes bring immediate intervention.

Conflict. Since the establishment of the hegemony of Fakaofo in "ancient times," there has been little conflict between the atolls. Tokelau has no hostile neighbors. Internal conflicts are mediated effectively by the village councils. Conflict is also channeled into competition between the two village sides in various entertainments, including ongoing cricket matches and song-dance exchanges. When on occasion this competition becomes too intense and threatens to disrupt the peace, the competing sides are simply revised, so that enemies and allies are scrambled.

Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs. Since the latter half of the nineteenth century, Christianity has been a central part of Tokelau life. Of the gods and spirits of the past little is known. Tui Tokelau was preeminent, had no visible being, and was represented by a huge mat-wrapped pillar in front of his shrine in Fakaofo. Here annual rites were held appealing to the god for continued abundance and fertility. Other gods or spirits were associated with particular places or kin groups. Catholic and Protestant proselytizers competed for Tokelau souls in the 1850s-1860s. Their successes were initially in Atafu, which became and remains wholly Protestant, and Nukunonu, which became and remains wholly Catholic. Fakaofo ended up with adherents of both denominations and decades of veiled antagonism, if not open hostility, between them. However, a true ecumenical spirit came to prevail there and has become part of general Tokelau morality. Whether Protestant or Catholic, Tokelau Christianity is of a fundamentalist, puritanical bent. Christian morality is preached in support of Tokelau precepts: respect for elders, obedience to parents, unity of community, equality of all, etc.

Religious Practitioners. Protestant congregations have pastors, until recently Samoan ones, who have been "invited" by the congregation to "serve." The governance of each parish is in the hands of local deacons and lay preachers, upstanding male members of the congregation. Catholic congregations have catechists, always Tokelauans, and sometimes host a resident, non-Tokelauan priest.

Ceremonies. Celebrations, whether of Christian derivation or Tokelau origin, have both Christian and local components. Significant days of the Christian calendar, days set aside for local groups (often marking their founding), and events of moment to the community (such as weddings) invariably include four features: prayer, food, games, and entertainment (i.e., a church service, a feast, a cricket match, and a song-dance evening). Other features may be added, such as a parade, and the basic ones may be elaborated and modified in innumerable ways.

Arts. The performing arts are the most developed and creative Tokelau arts. The song-dance repertoire is huge, and new performances are continually being created. Equally creative, but more individual, are comic skits and routines devised and repeated by recognized clowns and comedians, many of whom are older women.

Medicine. Hospitals with Western-trained Tokelau doctors and nurses are long-standing village institutions. When they are ill or injured most people go to the hospital for attention. Certain local people are recognized masseurs whose skills are sought to relieve or correct various conditions. Although herbal remedies and other "medicines" are used, there are few specialist healers of this sort.

Death and Afterlife. A death in the village is signaled by the tolling of the church bell, and from then until burial all other activity is in abeyance. The body is laid out in the appropriate family home. Women of the immediate family remain in attendance, their wailing broken by speeches, hymns, and prayers of visitors. Before the body is placed in its coffin, people gather at the house of mourning to take part in final farewells. Following a Christian service, the coffin is Transported to the burial ground and placed in a deeply dug grave. After the last rites, all men present give a hand in filling the grave. A period of postburial mourning ends with a feast. The influence of the dead is often remarked on soon after burial: the deceased may bring an abundance of fish, or the deceased's ghost may be encountered, or the ghost may bring misfortune to kin who do not follow specified instructions. Mainly, however, the dead are considered to be remote, though they are fondly remembered.

See alsoSamoa, Tuvalu


Hooper, A. (1985). "Tokelau Fishing in Traditional and Modern Contexts." In The Traditional Knowledge and management of Coastal Systems in Asia and the Pacific, edited by K. Ruddle and R. E. Johannes. Jakarta: UNESCO.

Hooper, A., and J. Huntsman (1973). "A Demographic History of the Tokelau Islands." Journal of the Polynesian Society 82:366-411.

Huntsman, J. (1971). "Concepts of Kinship and Categories of Kinsmen in the Tokelau Islands." Journal of the Polynesian Society 80:317-354.

Huntsman, J., and A. Hooper (1975). "Male and Female in Tokelau Culture." Journal of the Polynesian Society 84:415-430.

Huntsman, J., and A. Hooper (1985). "Structures of Tokelau History." In Transformations of Polynesian Culture, edited by A. Hooper and J. Huntsman. Auckland: The Polynesian Society.

Macgregor, G. (1937). Ethnology of Tokelau Islands. Bernice P. Bishop Museum Bulletin no. 146. Honolulu.



views updated May 11 2018


Culture Name



Identification. "Tokelau" means "north-northeast." Its people also identify themselves by their atoll villages: Atafu, Fakaofo, and Nukunonu.

Location and Geography. Three unbroken rings of coral with a combined land area of somewhat over four square miles (ten square kilometers) lie along a 93 mile (150 kilometers) northwest southeast axis, separated from each other by 37 to 56 miles (60 to 90 kilometers) of open sea.

Demography. The population is about 1,700. An additional estimated five thousand reside overseas, mainly in New Zealand.

Linguistic Affiliation. Tokelauan is a Polynesian language. Older people are bilingual in Samoan, which was introduced with Christianity in the 1860s; younger people are more apt to be bilingual in English through their schooling.

Symbolism. Homeland atolls are the preeminent symbols, denoting both place and ancestry.

History and Ethnic Relations

Emergence of the Nation and National Identity. As a culturally distinctive dependency of New Zealand, Tokelau is a nation. After sixty years as a British protectorate and then a colony ruled with "benign neglect," in 1948 Tokelau became "a part of New Zealand" and its people became New Zealand citizens. Most people want to retain that status, which combines considerable local political autonomy with substantial external support.

Ethnic Relations. Virtually all residents are of Tokelauan ancestry. In New Zealand, Tokelauans are a minority population among other Pacific Islanders, Maori, and persons of Asian and European ancestry. Many conscientiously maintain aspects of their culture.

Urbanism, Architecture, and the Use of Space

The villages are densely peopled and like small rural towns in character. Public buildings under the aegis of the village are the meeting house and the church. Public amenities under the control of the administration/public service are the dispensary/hospital, school, and administration compound that houses the communications center (formerly the two-way radio), the village cooperative store, and offices for administrative and elected officers. Dwelling houses are rectangular single-room structures on raised coral-filled foundations and aligned with the straight heavily traveled footpaths. Until the 1970s, the houses were open constructions of local timber and pandanus-leave thatch, with plaited coconut frond blinds that could be lowered against wind and rain. Now the houses are more closed, built of imported lumber, concrete, and corrugated iron, sometimes with louvered glass windows. They are still, however, carpeted with mats plaited from pandanus and/or coconut leaves, upon which the occupants sit and lounge. Other furnishings are rolled-up sleeping mats, locked wooden boxes containing clothing and other personal belongings, and miscellaneous chairs, tables, and bedsteads. Separate cookhouses, still constructed of local materials, may be adjacent to, or more likely, distant from dwelling houses.

Food and Economy

Food in Daily Life. Fish and coconuts are abundant; other local foods are seasonal or scarce. Stores stock imported food, mainly rice, flour, and sugar.

Basic Economy. Traditional economic activities center on the land, reef, lagoon, and sea. Fishing is strictly a subsistence activity, pursued with ingenuity backed by extensive knowledge. Coconuts rarely are harvested for uses other than subsistence since public service employment became the main source of cash. Handicrafts are more often produced as gifts than for cash.

Land Tenure and Property. Aside from a small portion of land used for communal purposes, all land is held by cognatic kin groups and managed by persons with recognized positions within those groups. Village houses are occupied and managed by kin group women; men manage and harvest plantation lands. Virtually everyone has rights to land and to a share of the produce from the land. Most people are members of more than one kin group and many receive produce from four or more.

Commercial Activities. All entrepreneurial activities are closely scrutinized by the Councils in each village.

Division of Labor. A major division exists between salaried public service employees who have job qualifications and wage-earning public service employees who do not. The distinction between paid and unpaid work has been partially eroded by village management of aid projects, for which all village workers are paid. Age determines who does what, who directs, and who labors.

Social Stratification

Classes and Castes. An egalitarian ethic overrides differentials in wealth among a growing elite whose education and experience qualify them for better-paid employment or positions. They contribute generously to village and family enterprises and avoid ostentatious displays of affluence.

Political Life

Government. The New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs administers Tokelau, delegating certain powers to the three village-elected Faipule, who rotate as "head" of Tokelau during their three-year terms.

Leadership and Political Officials. Councils of elderly men and/or representatives of kin groups control the villages and direct village activities through the elected Pulenuku ("mayor").

Social Problems and Control. Persons are reprimanded in communal venues by their elders and peers for minor misdemeanors and are brought before local courts for more serious ones.

Social Welfare and Change Programs

Development programs proliferate, supported by New Zealand and by international, regional, and other aid.

Nongovernmental Organizations and Other Associations

Organizations of able-bodied men, adult women, and competing "sides" are long-standing village institutions, as are several church associations. Clubs and youth groups are less permanent.

Gender Roles and Statuses

Division of Labor by Gender. The adage that men "go"fishing and harvestingand women "stay"managing the familyhas been compromised by widespread public service employment. Both men and women work in skilled jobs; most unskilled workers are men.

Relative Status of Women and Men. Complementary equity predicated on sister-brother relationships has been compromised by Christian ideology and money.

Marriage, Family, and Kinship

Marriage. Virtually all residents enter into sanctified, lifelong monogamous unions. Individual choice is constrained by kin group exogamy.

Domestic Unit. The pattern is an uxorilocal, often expanded nuclear family, in line with the adage that women "stay" and men "go."

Inheritance. All offspring inherit rights from both parents.

Kin Groups. Members of each cognatic kin group reside throughout the village and interact regularly.


Child Rearing and Education. Infant care is indulgent. Children are closely disciplined and precisely instructed in increasingly complex tasks.

Higher Education. All children attend village primary and secondary schools; many continue their schooling abroad.


Deference and obedience to one's elders and restraint between cross-sex siblings is expected. Physical aggression is abhorred.


Religious Beliefs. Protestant and Catholic congregations practice a fundamentalist, puritanical form of Christianity.

Religious Practitioners. Protestant pastors, deacons, and lay preachers and Catholic priests, catechists, and elders direct their respective congregations.

Rituals and Holy Places. Churches are cherished sites with frequent masses and services.

Death and the Afterlife. A short wake, church service, and burial are followed by evenings of mourning and ended by a feast. Unusual events and encounters may be attributed to ghost spirits. The dead are fondly remembered.

Medicine and Health Care

Western curative and preventive medicine has long been available. The hospital is normally the first resort. Local therapists mainly use massage.

Secular Celebrations

Numerous commemorative days and other celebrations feature feasts, competitions, parades, and entertainment.

The Arts and Humanities

Literature. Oral narratives may be fictional stories or recountings of the past.

Graphic Arts. Women work in fiber, and men work in wood.

Performance Arts. Poetry, music, and dance are combined in old and new group compositions.


Angelo, A. H. "Tokelau." In M. A. Ntumy, ed., South Pacific Legal Systems, 1993.

Angelo, T. "The Last of the Island Territories? The Evolving Constitutional Relationship with Tokelau." Stout Centre Journal, 1996.

Hooper, Antony. "The MIRAB transition in Fakaofo, Tokelau." Pacific Viewpoint 34 (2): 241264, 1997.

Huntsman, J., and A. Hooper. "Male and Female in Tokelau Culture." Journal of the Polynesian Society 84: 415430, 1975.

. Tokelau: A Historical Ethnography, 1996.

Matagi Tokelau. Tokelau History and Traditions, 1991.

Simona, R. Tokelau Dictionary, 1986.

Wessen, A. F., A. Hooper, J. Huntsman, I. A. M. Prior, and C. E. Salmond, eds. Migration and Health in a Small Society: The Case of Tokelau, 1992.

Judith Huntsman


views updated May 29 2018


Basic Data
Official Country Name:Tokelau
Language(s):Tokelauan, English
Literacy Rate:NA

Tokelau consists of three atollsAtafu, Fakaofo, and Nukunonulocated in the middle of the South Pacific with a population between 1,700 and 1,800 people. Declared a British Protectorate in 1889, Tokelau was transferred under New Zealand administration in 1925. The church established the first institutionalized schools in the 1860s.

The system was reviewed in 1997, and most of the earlier policies were changed and modified. The goals of the educational system include providing learning opportunities for the country's children and assisting the development of its future human resources. Schooling is compulsory and free for the first 10 years. Each atoll has a school that caters to the preschool level (5 years of age) through year 10 level (14 years of age), as well as one national class for the whole group. Each atoll takes a turn hosting the national (year 11 level) for five consecutive years on a rotational basis. The language policy underwent modification as well when Tokelau and English became the languages of instruction.

The Education Department is accountable to parents, village councils, and the national government through the director and support staff. Each school has a principal, a deputy, and teaching staff organized into three syndicates with a leader responsible for a group of teachers and classes. The academic year is divided into four terms with two-week holiday breaks.

Last year, the total number of students attending the three schools was 529, made up of 264 girls and 265 boys. The teaching staff stands at about 30 qualified teachers, assisted by a number of teacher aides. The department has also recruited three New Zealand VSA teachers with the assistance of the New Zealand Government.

Internal assessment, end of term tests, and final examinations are the basis of evaluating student progress and the curriculum. There is however, a national examination at the completion of the national year 11 level where a number of scholarships are selected for further studies in Samoa. Further selections for students to study in higher learning institutions in New Zealand and the surrounding region are based on regional examination passes.

Kelihiano Kalolo


views updated May 18 2018


B asic D ata
Official Country Name:Tokelau
Region (Map name):Oceania
Language(s):Tokelauan, English
Literacy rate:N/A

Tokelau, a group of three low-lying islands in the South Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and New Zealand, is a country in danger. According to a United Nations report, the islands are at risk of disappearing into the ocean if global warming continues to raise sea levels. Formerly known as the Union Islands, Tokelau was a British Protectorate until 1926, when administrative control was transferred to New Zealand.

The population is approximately 1,500, and most inhabitants speak English and Tokelauan, a Polynesian dialect. The chief of state is the British monarch, represented in New Zealand by an administrator of Tokelau. Since 1999, Tokelauans have been moving towards self-government by drafting a constitution and developing the necessary administrative infrastructure. Geographic isolation and lack of resources limit economic activity to subsistence agriculture. The country's main source of income is government aid from New Zealand, but Tokelauans also sell postage stamps, souvenir coins and handicrafts.

Freedom of the press and speech are respected. There is no daily newspaper. Tugaki a Nukunonu, a bimonthly free publication, features local news, politics and events. It publishes in English and Tokelauan and enjoys a circulation of around 100.

There are television or radio stations on the island, but each atoll periodically uses the radio to broadcast shipping and weather reports. There are 1,000 radios and one Internet service provider.


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

CocoNET Wireless. The University of Queensland, Australia. (1995). Available from coconet/tok.html.

"Country Profile.", 2002. Available from Oceania/Tokelau_Islands/.

"New Zealand." Freedom House, 2001. Available from

Jenny B. Davis