Tokelau Language Week 2019

This week Tokelauans across New Zealand are celebrating their culture and language: Te vāiaho o te gagana Tokelau. Today, more Tokelauans live outside Tokelau than on the islands. About 6,800 live in New Zealand. The theme of this year’s Tokelau Language Week is Tiutiuga a Tautai ma Figo auā te lumanaki o Fānau, which means mastery of traditional knowledge, skills, expertise and leadership to help shape the future.


Where is Tokelau?

Tokelau elder Fofo Pou Poasa yesterday shared his knowledge about traditional meahina taonga collections at Auckland Museum. He said it was important that Tokelauans, especially children, learn about their identity. His words have been translated:

“We have the opportunity to demonstrate and to fulfil the hopes of us, the Tokelau people. As we were growing up, there were some tools we used on the island such as the vilivil (pump drill) and kofe (fishing rod). The rod reflects our families and is the mother. The handle is the father. The pa (fish hooks) are the son and the daughter. These are treasures of our culture.”

Minister for Pacific Peoples Aupito William Sio launched the Tokelau Language Week in Auckland on Saturday.

Tokelau Language Week ends on 2 November, when a Fatele Day, a combined community day, will be held in Auckland.

Malo ni – hello

Ulu tonu mai – welcome

Kaiga – family

Faiakoga – teacher

Tofa ni – goodbye

A little more about Tokelau:

Tokelau, which means ‘North Wind,’ is a non-self-governing territory of New Zealand consisting of three coral atolls in the South Pacific: Atafu, Nukunonu, and Fakaofo. It is one of the most remotest places on earth. There is little tourism on the atolls of Tokelau. Thus, there are few tourist attractions, which means that a visit to Tokelau affords a quiet getaway, far off the beaten path.

Traveling to Tokelau requires a dedication that dissuades all but the most committed visitors. It has no harbors or ports nor does it have an airport. It takes upwards of 24 hours to reach Tokelau by boat from its nearest neighbor, Samoa. The government-run MV Tokelau provides passenger and cargo services to and from Apia every two weeks. The trip takes about 24-36 hours each way, and the ship makes the round trip in five days. Passengers must bring their own mattresses to sleep on. Food is provided, and there is one bathroom for the passengers.

Tokelau culture is Polynesian culture. Sharing of resources according to need and respect for elders are integral characteristics of this culture. Age typically determines the level of employment; the older Tokelauans holding managerial positions.

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