Tokelau is an island territory of New Zealand in Southeast Asia that is sometimes referred to as the Union Islands. The United Nations declared it a non-self-governing territory in 2007. Tokelau is officially known as a nation by both its government and New Zealand’s government. The land area is approximately 10 km2 (4 sq mi) and the population is approximately 1,400. Its capital rotates yearly between the three atolls.The most spoken language in the country is Tokelauan.
Many in this country are immigrants, and the population continues to decrease in population. The average life expectancy is 69 years old. Villages are entitled to enact their own laws regulating their daily lives and New Zealand law only applies where it has been extended by specific enactment. Serious crime is rare and there are no prisons — offenders are publicly rebuked, fined or made to work. The head of state is Elizabeth II, the Queen in right of New Zealand, who also reigns over Australia, the United Kingdom and the other Commonwealth realms. The Queen is represented in the territory by an acting Administrator. A chairperson presides over the Council for the Ongoing Government of Tokelau, which functions as a cabinet. The Council consists of the faipule (leader) and pulenuku (village mayor) of each of the three atolls. The Administrator is appointed by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade of New Zealand, and the office of Head of Government rotates between the three faipule for a one-year term.
Tokelau is a leader in renewable energy. Also, it’s original vegetation has been replaced by coconut plantations, some of which have become abandoned and turned into forests. The atolls are very diverse in wildlife and it is a shark sanctuary. Fishing, shipping and farming are still very important. Tokelau also exports handicrafts, stamps, woodworking, and coins. It is almost completely dependent on the New Zealand government because its economy is so small. Many Tokelauans live in New Zealand and support their families in Tokelau through remittances. There is no airport there either.
Here are some tips for those planning to live or do business on the islands:
- Historically, the culture was very communal and governed by clans. Family ties, saving face, and sticking up for the clan are still very important.
- Tokelauans are now one of the most socio-economically deprived Pacific groups. This is very significant in its impact on the culture’s perception of itself.
- Western and traditional cultural ideals are embraced. The society was based on animistic traditions, but now it has become more of a mix.
- Community and respect and care for the elderly are very important. Children are raised by the community. Families often live with their extended families.
- Chivalry in the best sense is practiced in many families, and respect for self and others is encouraged.
- Money is seen as being important but not the most important thing in life.
- An egalitarian ethic overrides differentials in wealth. Rich people contribute generously to village and family enterprises and avoid ostentatious displays of affluence.
- Virtually all residents enter into sanctified, lifelong monogamous marital unions. Individual choice is constrained by kin group exogamy.
- Anamism and Fundamentalist Christianity (Catholic and Protestant) are the most popular religions. Sometimes syncretism between the two are practiced.
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.
Baker, M. and J. Zhang (2005) Housing, Crowding and Health Study: Characteristics of Cohort Members and Selected Hospitalisation Events: February 2003 to June 2005,Housing and Health Research Programme Reports, University of Otago, Wellington.
Baker, M., A. McNicholas, N. Garrett, N. Jones, J. Stewart, V. Koberstein et al. (2000) “Household crowding a major risk factor for meningococcal disease in Auckland children” Paediatric Infectious Disease Journal, 19:983–90.
Baker, M., K. Venugopal and P. Howden-Chapman (in press) Household Crowding and Tuberculosis: Estimating the Population Attributable Risk in Europe, WHO Europe, Bonn.
Baker, M., R. Goodyear and P. Howden-Chapman (2003) Household Crowding and Health: What is the Extent of Crowding in New Zealand? An Analysis of Crowding in New Zealand Households 1986–2001, Statistics New Zealand, Wellington.
Cheer, T., R.A. Kearns and L. Murphy (2002) “Housing policy, poverty and culture: ‘Discounting’ decisions among Pacific peoples in Auckland, New Zealand” Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy, 20:497–516.
Culture. (2017). Government of Tokelau. Retrieved April 13, 2017, from http://www.tokelau.org.nz/About Us/Culture.html
Das, D., K. Venugopal and B. Michael (2007) The Epidemiology of Necrotising Fasciitis and Skin Infection in New Zealand Based on NZHIS Hospitalisation and Mortality Data, University of Otago, Wellington.
Gray, A. (2001) Definitions of Crowding and the Effects of Crowding on Health: A Literature Review, Ministry of Social Policy, Wellington.
Hooper, Antony. “The MIRAB transition in Fakaofo, Tokelau.” Pacific Viewpoint 34 (2): 241–264, 1997.
Howden-Chapman, P. and A. Woodward (eds.) (2001) Health of Pacific Societies: The Life and Works of Dr Ian Prior, Steele Roberts, Wellington.
Howden-Chapman, P. and M. Tobias (eds.) (2000) Social Inequalities in Health: New Zealand 1999, Wellington, Ministry of Health.
Howden-Chapman, P., G. Pene, J. Crane, R. Green, L. Iupati, I. Prior et al. (2000) “Open houses and closed rooms: Tokelau housing in New Zealand” Health Education and Behavior, 27:351–62.
Hulsen, M., K. De Bot and B. Weltens (2002) “‘Between two worlds’: Social networks, language shift, and language processing in three generations of Dutch migrants in New Zealand” International Journal of Social Language, 153:27–52.
Huntsman, J. and A. Hooper (1997) Tokelau: An Historical Ethnography, Auckland University Press, Auckland.
Huntsman, J., and Hooper A. “Male and Female in Tokelau Culture.” Journal of the Polynesian Society 84: 415–430, 1975.
Huntsman, J., and Hooper A. Tokelau: A Historical Ethnography , 1996.
Jaine, R. (2007) Acute Rheumatic Fever in New Zealand: Epidemiology and the Role of Household Crowding, Department of Public Health, University of Otago, Wellington.
Jera, M. (2005) Housing, Health and Wellbeing: A Phenomenological Exploration of Life in Subsidised Housing, Department of Public Health, University of Otago, Wellington.
Jones, A. and K. Jenkins (2008) “Rethinking collaboration: Working the indigene-colonizer hyphen” in N. Denzin, Y. Lincoln and L. Tuhiwai Smith (eds.) Handbook of Critical and Indigenous Methodologies, Sage Publications, Los Angeles.
Manukia, J. (28 August 1998) “Faces red over crowding claim” New Zealand Herald, p.A3.
Mauss, M. (1954) The Gift: The Form and Reason for Exchange in Archaic Societies Reissue edition (August 2000), W.W. Norton & Co., New York.
Ministry of Social Development (2008) The 2008 Social Report: Indicators of Social Wellbeing in New Zealand, Ministry of Social Development, Wellington.
Pene, G., P.J.C. Howden-Chapman, R. Green, L. Iupati, I. Prior and I. Teao (1999) “Ola malolo ola whiawhia: Housing and health in Wellington Tokelau households” Pacific Health Dialog, 6:87–95.
Simona, R. Tokelau Dictionary , 1986.
Stark, O. (1999) Altruism and Beyond: An Economic Analysis of Transfers and Exchanges within Families and Groups, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
Starks, D. (2006) “The changing roles of language and identity in the New Zealand Niuean community: Findings from the Pasifika Languages of Manukau Project” International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 9:374–391.
Statistics New Zealand (2007a) Pacific Profiles: 2006, Statistics New Zealand, Wellington.
Statistics New Zealand (2007b) Tokelauan People in New Zealand: 2006, Statistics New Zealand, Wellington.
Thorns, D.H. (1988) Housing Issues, Royal Commission on Social Policy, Wellington, Government Printer.
Viggers, H., P. Howden-Chapman, P. Day and J. Pierse (2008) Community Profile and Description of Place: Taita and Naenae, Report for Housing New Zealand Corporation, He Kainga Oranga / Housing and Health Research Programme, Wellington School of Medicine and Health Science, Wellington.
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.
Wessen, A.F., A. Hopper, J. Huntsman, I. Prior and C. Salmond (1992) Migration and Health in a Small Society: The Case of Tokelau, Clarendon Press, Oxford.
©Allison J. Weaver Consulting, LLC 2017