Volume 82 1973 > Volume 82, No. 4 > A demographic history of the Tokelau Islands, by Antony Hooper and Judith Huntsman, p 366-411
                                                                                             Previous | Next   

- 366

The three islands of the Tokelau group lie approximately 300 miles north of Western Samoa. Although each lies well out of sight of the others, they may all be enclosed within a circle having a radius of less than 50 nautical miles. The evidence of linguistics, local tradition, and historical and ethnographic records all attest the cultural unity and distinctiveness of the native people.

The islands are of atoll formation. There are no deep-water passes into the lagoons and, since the ocean margins of the barrier reefs shelve precipitously into deep water, ships must lie off the shores while cargo and passengers are transferred by canoe or small boat. On each island, the population is concentrated in a single village on the western lee shore on an islet close to a small natural pass which allows canoes to move between the lagoon and the open sea, On Atafu and Nukunonu the villages occupy parts of relatively large islets, while in Fakaofo the village covers the whole of a smaller islet which has been built up over the years and, in part, reclaimed from the reef and lagoon bed. 1 Neither local tradition nor historical records suggest that the population have ever lived outside these village areas on any permanent basis.

New Zealand Government publications have consistently stated that Nukunonu is by far the largest atoll, having a land area of 1350 acres in comparison to 650 and 500 acres respectively for Fakaofo and Atafu. These figures all appear to derive from a report 2 which was made on the basis of a seven-day official visit to the islands in 1925, and it is likely that they are incorrect. 3

- 367

The islets making up each atoll vary greatly in size, from a few square yards to one which is 200 yards wide and 4 miles in length. None, however, rises more than about 15 feet above sea level. The vegetation consists of a forest dominated by coconut palms, but there are a number of other important trees such as kanava (Cordia subcordata), pukakakai (Pisonia grandis), and fala (Pandanus spp.). The lower levels of the forest cover are made up of Tiumfetta procumbens, Solanum viride and a number of species of ferns. 4

There are four significant food crops, of which coconut is by far the most important. Breadfruit are grown extensively in the three village areas (the 11 acres of Fakaofo village have over 300 trees) and provide three good crops per year; the trees were first established about 70 years ago from root cuttings brought from both Samoa and the Ellice Islands. The numerous edible varieties of pandanus grow on all the islets, and are cultivated to some extent; pandanus was present in pre-European times, and there have since been varieties introduced from the Ellice Islands. The only other food crop of any significance is pulaka (Cytosperma chamissonis), which is cultivated only on Fakaofo and Atafu, in artificial humus pits dug down to the fresh-water lens. Atafu has extensive areas of bananas and some tāmū (Alocasia macrorrhiza) within the village area. Supplies of fresh water are obtained from public tanks in each of the three villages, and on Fakaofo and Atafu this supply may be augmented by wells on the village islets. Nukunonu has never had a reliable well. The main sources of protein are fish, pigs and chickens, the last two introduced since European contact.

The two islands lie just outside the South Pacific equatorial dry zone, and experience quite considerable variations in rainfall. Precipitation data from Atafu (which may be taken as representative of the other two islands as well) over the period from 1929 to 1953 show an average annual rainfall of about 115 inches. This is spread over all months, but the fall from April through September is approximately half of that for the remaining months. Mean daily temperature is 83 degrees Fahrenheit.

Apart from small areas ceded to the Tokelau Islands Administration and used for public services such as schools and hospitals, all land in the - 368 atolls is held “in accordance with the customs and usages of the Tokelauan inhabitants”. 5 According to these customs, certain areas of each atoll are designated as fenua fakamua “communal land”, worked by the local village as a whole for the common benefit of the members, and others are set aside for the use of the churches. But the residual rights to the greater part of land in each atoll, both in the village areas and outside, are owned by corporate groups known as kāiga. These may not, however, exploit their rights without restriction. The kāiga lands of each atoll are divided into between two and six named areas, and the village council in each case may regulate exploitation by declaring only certain areas as “free” for the kāiga groups to visit and use on certain days of each week. The explicit intention of this custom is to ensure that full benefit is derived from all areas of the atolls (even those lying furthest from the village) and to prevent people from pilfering resources from kāiga other than their own.


Land rights, the labour involved in the exploitation of land, and the produce of the land, do not enter into the Market economy of the islands. Together with fish and the many other goods and services which do not circulate against money for a tau “price” or totogi “payment”, they make up what may be termed the Traditional sphere of the modern Tokelau economy. 7 Transactions within this sphere are numerous and are divided into a rich variety of named categories; the governing ideology of the sphere is that of redistribution and equal shares for all. By contrast, the Market sphere of the economy is distinguished by the use of cash both to establish “price” and to make “payment”, and by an ideology of accumulation and differentiation of individual rights. It is made up of all those goods and services which may be priced and payed for with cash, such as: services to the Tokelau Administration as a schoolteacher, nurse or labourer; remittances and goods sent (mainly to parents) by migrants overseas, and goods imported by the local co-operative stores for resale. Some idea of the extent of the Market sphere is given by the fact that, in 1971, salaries and wages paid by the Administration to Tokelauans in the atolls amounted to $NZ39,000, copra sales brought in $NZ6500, the value of cash remittances sent by migrants was about $NZ7500, and approximately $NZ1000 was brought by visitors and returning residents.

While the contrast between the two spheres is relatively distinct, and is explicitly recognised by Tokelauans, the attribution of particular goods and services to a distinct sphere is sometimes a matter of dispute. The use of cash is not a clearly distinguishing feature of the Tokelau Market sphere at this time; it may also enter into the Traditional economy, but always as a mea alofa “gift” or “prestation”, or as a “share” in some distribution, and never as a “payment”. In this way, the production of copra is an enterprise which straddles the two spheres. As a product of the land, it originates unequivocally in the Traditional sphere, and yet is sold for cash. The Tokelauan solution is simply to treat the cash obtained as - 369 a Traditional good, divide it equally among all those having rights to the land from which it was produced, and distribute it among the right-holders.

Until the establishment of schools and adequately staffed hospitals in the atolls during the 1950s, and the employment of labourers for construction gangs which began in the late 1960s, the Traditional sphere clearly dominated the Market sphere, but it is coming to be of considerably less importance. Subsistence in the islands is still very largely within the Traditional sphere; houses and canoes are still made mostly of local materials, and, with an average per capita income in 1971 of less than $NZ40, the overshelming bulk of food consumed is still produced and grown locally.

Market transactions are heavily concentrated in the few weeks following the arrival of the cargo ship which visits the atolls four or five times a year from Western Samoa, bringing mail, remittances, wages and salaries, and supplies to replenish the Co-operative stores. People tend to buy heavily while supplies of imported goods last. The cargo ship, which is run under charter to the Tokelau Islands Administration, stays only between 24 and 48 hours off each atoll. Besides cargo, it carries passengers, providing the only opportunities to travel between the atolls, and the only regular link with the outside world.


The traditional evidence for the peopling of the atolls is both fragmentary and contradictory. One group of traditions ascribes the origin of the Tokelau people to settlers from Samoa, 8 Rarotonga 9 or Nanumanga in the Ellice group, 10 while another, declared by one anthropologist to be “probably derived from Samoa”, 11 describes an autochthonous origin. Both agree, however, that the first man of Fakaofo took a woman of Nukunonu as his wife.

The traditional history of the group, much of which still has currency in the form of tala, describes incidents from the campaigns by which Fakaofo subjugated Nukunonu and drove off the original inhabitants of Atafu, who are believed to have found refuge on Sikaiana and Leuaniua (Ontong Java) in the Solomons. The political dominance of Fakaofo, which was bound up with that island's possession of the god Tui Tokelau, lasted well into the period of European contact, and was formally ended only in 1918. MacGregor, from the lists of Fakaofo kings and the genealogies available to him, argues for an original settlement date of Fakaofo “about the middle of the seventeenth century”, 12 and, in the absence of any archaeological evidence from the atolls, there seems to be little ground for disputing this estimate.

The origin of the present-day population of Atafu is clearly attested by - 370 the traditional, genealogical and historical evidence. If, as the traditions state, the original inhabitants were driven from the island by a war party from Fakaofo, this event probably occurred some time before 1765, when Byron landed and found no evidence of habitation. 13 Edwards, in 1791, found a few houses and other evidence which led him to conclude that the island was used for temporary habitation. 14 In the mid 1820s, however, a Captain Macy on a whaling ship out of Nantucket “saw natives on it”, 15 and all subsequent visitors reported the island to be inhabited. Tokelau traditions maintain that Atafu was settled by a Fakaofo man, Tonuia, and his wife from Nukunonu, and the genealogies deriving from their seven offspring are widely known and neither esoteric nor subject to dispute. The first missionaries to visit the island, in 1861, were greeted by a chief who declared himself to be Tonuia's grandson (Tonuia's eldest son's third child), and in the present population his closest descendant is a great-great-granddaughter born, she says, in 1891.

Early European Contacts

Although the atolls lie in close proximity to one another, their discovery by Europeans was piecemeal and spread over a period of some 70 years. Atafu was discovered by Commodore Byron in 1765, and named by him Duke of York's Island. 16 In June 1891 the island was revisited by Captain Edwards of the Pandora, who went on to discover Nukunonu a few days later, naming it Duke of Clarence's Island. Parties from the Pandora landed on both islands. They found signs of habitation of Atafu buf saw no people; in Nukunonu they saw “natives on the beach”, 17 but although they visited a village they established no effective contact with the inhabitants. Had they done so, they might well have learned of the existence of Fakaofo, since both Nukunonu and Atafu were under the effective hegemony of Fakaofo at that time. It was not until 1835 that the existence of Fakaofo was established when “. . . Captain Smith [of the whaler General Jackson of Bristol, Rhode Island,] visited the three islands, first touching at the Duke of York, and from thence proceeding directly to the Duke of Clarence where he stopped to recruit . . . and . . . shortly after his departure from the latter, he discovered ‘D’Wolf's Island' . . .” 18 which he named after his ship's owner. No landing was made at Fakaofo, but the ship “was chased by about 30 canoes” when several miles off land. 19 Four years later, however, Captain Crocker landed from the same General Jackson “and found the natives friendly”. 20 Although it is likely, as Maude 21 suggests, that other ships at least sighted Fakaofo during this period, there are no detailed accounts of either the people of - 371 the Tokelau Islands or the language which they spoke before the visit of the United States Exploring Expedition in 1841.

This expedition touched first at Atafu, where it spent a day in strained, though largely amicable, contact with the inhabitants. From the people's willingness to trade, and the presence of a blue bead strung around the neck of one of the men, Hale drew the conclusion they had “already had intercourse with foreigners”. 22 Through a Samoan interpreter they were able to learn the island's name and that the high chief resided on an island to the south-east named “Fakaafo”. From this evidence, and the fact that the people had only double canoes, Hale concluded that the people on Atafu properly belonged to Fakaofo and were only temporarily resident on Atafu. This conclusion, though not completely correct, accords with the traditional and historical evidence that Atafu was a recent colony of Fakaofo. Estimates of the Atafu population at this time vary widely, from Dana's 50 or 60 23 through Reynold's 24 100 to the figure of 120 which is given in the official account of the expedition. 25

Wilkes reported that “There was no cultivation whatever, and their only food appeared to be the cocoa-nut and fish. There were no animals seen, no fowls, dogs, or hogs . . . They have no water on the island, and the supply is wholly obtained from excavations made in the body of the cocoa-nut trees . . . capable of containing five or six gallons of water.” 26

Several days later, having bypassed Nukunonu, the expedition unexpectedly reached Fakaofo. A landing party visited the village islet, which was found to be “. . . covered with cocoa-nut trees, under the shade of which the houses were scattered, a few yards from one another. They were very numerous, the village being quite a large one . . .” 27 During their brief visit and inspection of the village, the members of the expedition saw Tui Tokelau, the stone god to which the whole group owed allegiance, and also further evidence of recent contact with Europeans in the form of items salvaged from a wreck which had occurred several years previously. The village also had a well, of which some care was evidently taken, leading Hale to the speculation that “. . . the pure element is an article of much rarity and value among them.” 28 Hale was also led to reflect on the subject of population control:

The only edible fruits which the island produces are those of the cocoa-nut and the pandanus; and the fact that the hard and distasteful nuts of the latter are eaten, may lead us to believe that the natives are sometimes sufferers from want of food. The rest of their sustenance is drawn from the sea . . . and it would be an interesting subject of inquiry to discover the causes which prevent the population from increasing so as to press too closely upon the means of subsistence.

- 372
Population Estimates and Enumerations, 1841 to 1951
    Atafu     Fakaofo     Nukunonu     Tokelau   Remarks and Sources (All figures refer to de facto populations)
  M F P M F P M F P M F P  
end Jan. 1841     120     500-600             Wilkes MS 1841; Wilkes 1845. 1
end Jan. 1941           500-600             Hale 1846: 160.
end Jan. 1841     50-60                   Dana MS n.d. 2
end Jan. 1841     100     300-350             Reynolds MS n.d.
Jan. 30, 1841           800-1000             Whittle MS n.d. 3
1858           200-250             Stallworthy & Gill 1859:5.
1863     140     250     140     530 Gill & Bird MS 1863.
1868     170     less than     40     c.400 Murray MS 1868. 4
1871     150     200             Vivian MS 1871 5; Powell MS 1871.
1872                 48       Elloy 1879:75.
1876     180     207             Turner MS 1876. 6
1878     230     218             Turner MS 1878.
1881     216     180             Phillips MS 1881.
1882           235             Davies MS 1882.
1883     238     195             Marriott MS 1883.
1884     256     191     123     470 Didier 1885:516; Phillips MS 1884.
1885     259     203     124     586 Didier 1886:197; Newell, 1895.
1887     250     227             Marriott Ms 1887.
1895     326                   Marriott MS 1895.
1896     350     278             Newell MS 1896; Cusack-Smith MS 1896.
1897     351                   Cusack-Smith MS 1897.
1898     c.300     302     138     c.740 Maxse MS 1898.
1900     375     367     133     875 Hunter MS 1900.
1902     356     320             Hunter MS 1902. 7
1904     267     320     166     743 Hunter MS 1904.
1910 179 190 369 177 168 345 61 83 144     858 MacDermott MS 1910.
1925     380     430     210     1020 Swinbourne MS 1925.
1926 177 183 360 232 212 444     229     1033 AJHR 1926, A.-4D.
1927 194 196 390     398 105 104 209     997 Ritchie MS 1927.
1   Wilkes was not aboard when the Expedition ships visited Tokelau, and the Tokelau population figures which he gives are based on the recorded observations of other Expedition observers.
2   Dana was obviously more interested in the natural surroundings than in the inhabitants.
3   Whittle did not go ashore at Fakaofo.
4   Murray did not land at Nukunonu.
5   “. . . the population [of Fakaofo] at present is 200, 40 of them are male adults, and 70 female, and the remainder children from 7 years to 12. There has been but one or two births a year for eight years past and we saw only two babies in arms.”
6   Of Atafu, Turner comments, “. . . I only observed one man who had grey hair. All who would now have been elderly and the aged were kidnapped. The population steadily increases. Ten years ago there were only 120 left. Now they number 180.”
7   Hunter comments that in Fakaofo there were “10 deaths from fever in November last.”
- 373
    Atafu     Fakaofo     Nukunonu     Tokelau   Remarks and Sources (All figures refer to de facto populations)
  M F P M F P M F P M F P  
1929     380     480     220     1080 Allen MS 1929.
Nov. 4, 1936 178 200 378 247 261 508 143 141 284 568 602 1170 McKay MS 1937; Acting Secretary MS 1937.
June 17-19, 1937 195 216 411 219 248 467 150 145 295 564 609 1173 McKay MS 1937; Acting Secretary MS 1937.
1939 190 221 411 279 284 563 144 160 304 613 665 1278 McKay MS 1939.
1940       299 307 606             McKay MS 1940.
1941 215 251 446 292 300 592 167 155 322 674 706 1360 McKay MS 1941.
1942 179 214 393 316 331 647 173 151 324 668 696 1364 McKay MS 1942.
1943 187 221 408 320 340 660 179 157 336 686 718 1404 McKay MS 1943.
1944 206 236 442 294 321 615 166 156 332 666 713 1389 Grattan MS 1944
Sept. 25, 1945 205 246 451 270 300 570 198 169 367 673 715 1388 Census & Statistics Department 1947:12.
Dec., 1947                       1416 AJHR 1948, A.-4A.
March 1949                       1434 AJHR 1949, A.-6.
March 31, 1950                       1460 AJHR 1950, A.-6.
March 31, 1951 199 259 458 277 344 621 226 229 455 702 832 1534 AJHR 1951, A.-6.
Sept. 25, 1951 199 259 458 302 360 662 226 225 451 727 844 1571 Jupp MS 1957: Table 4.
- 374
Judging from what we saw, we are inclined to rate the inhabitants at between five and six hundred . . . This little spot of ground may therefore be considered, in proportion to its extent, very well peopled, as the whole superficies of dry land in all the islets cannot exceed two square miles. 29

Other members of the expedition recorded population estimates ranging from Reynolds' 300-350 30 to Whittle's 800 to 1000. 31 Wilkes, in his first report of the supposed discovery, 32 gave a population figure of “about 500”; in the published account, this is revised to “. . . about six hundred souls . . .” 33

The Expedition accounts of Fakaofo and Atafu leave a reader familiar with the Tokelau Islands today with the impression that there has been a great deal of physical and cultural continuity over the past century or more, which is surprising in view of the disruptions that occurred in the latter half of the nineteenth century, when the native religion collapsed under the persistent efforts of two competing missions and the population was reduced by introduced disease and raids by blackbirders engaged in the Peruvian slave trade.


In 1846, only five years after the visit of the U.S. Exploring Expedition, a period of famine following a severe hurricane drove some people from Fakaofo to seek refuge on a neighbouring island. They struck bad weather, however, and only two canoes survived, to reach Uvea more than six weeks later. The occupants of these canoes were well received by the Uveans and by the Marist missionaries who had been working there for the previous ten years. The missionaries set about the conversion of the new arrivals, with the intention of eventually sending them back to their own islands. 34

An opportunity to do so came only five years later. In 1852, Bishop Bataillon, learning that famine still prevailed in the Tokelaus, chartered the English ship Kate and sent her to Fakaofo with a cargo of coconuts. Father Padel, the priest in charge of this expedition, had with him as an interpreter a French sailor who had deserted from a whaling ship and who had previously spent some time in the Tokelaus. At Fakaofo, there was considerable indecision among the people as to whether or not to accept Padel's offer of passage for the entire remaining population to Uvea; but, following the pandemonium caused by the French sailor's setting alight the god house and the mats which covered Tui Tokelau, some 490 people left on the Kate, leaving an estimated 90 on the island. There is no record of any of these 490 having returned to Fakaofo before the first missionary voyage of the London Missionary Society to the island in - 375 1858—though it is reported that several died of their sufferings, and of the remainder, only 60 had not been baptised by the end of the year.

The first voyage of the London Missionary Society to the Tokelaus was made from Apia to Fakaofo in 1858. The “King” of Fakaofo and his “counsellors” would not, however, allow a Samoan mission teacher to settle among them, arguing that the stranger could not get sufficient food. On this voyage, the Fakaofo population was estimated not to exceed 250. 35

For the next few years, the islands remained under pagan control. In 1861, a number of the Tokelauans from Uvea were repatriated to Fakaofo, but there is unfortunately no record of the exact number of people involved, only “deux bonnes familles . . .” and “. . . deux jeunes gens éprouvés, fill de chefs influents dans ces îles.” 36 With some persuasion, these converts were allowed to remain with the freedom to practise their religion. They were not, however, left in peace for long.

Within two months of their arrival, the L.M.S. Ship called at Fakaofo again, this time en route to Atafu, which had requested a teacher. Another attempt was made to land a teacher at Fakaofo, and was refused; the two teachers, a Samoan and a Rarotongan, were carried on to Atafu and left with instructions to proceed with the conversion of Fakaofo whenever it seemed possible. 37 The Samoan teacher made the attempt in 1862 with a party from Atafu in two double canoes. Yet again the Fakaofo king and counsellors refused to accept a teacher, but allowed those who wished to join the church to return with the teacher to Atafu. Eight canoes left on the return trip to Atafu, which they missed in bad weather, and so set course for Samoa. These eight canoes made diverse landfalls in Samoa, without loss of life. The main body of six canoes, with 59 persons aboard, came ashore at Apia; the other two, containing about 20 persons in all, landed in Savaii and Tutuila. Fortunately for them, the L.M.S. Ship was in port at Apia at the time, and arrangements were immediately made to return the Tokelauans to their homes—and to make yet another attempt to land a teacher at Fakaofo. The 20 persons who landed at Savaii and Tutuila did not reach Apia in time to be returned to Fakaofo on the missionary ship, and there is no record of what happened to them subsequently. It is likely, however, that they escaped the disasters which shortly befell those who were returned to the atolls.

Portents of disaster occurred on the return voyage to Tokelau with the 59 castaways. Two boys, aged three years and six years, one adult male and an old man died of dysentery before the ship reached Fakaofo; and before the ship left the group to return to Samoa another two of the children who had been among the castaways died. 38

The missionary account of this voyage provides final estimates of the - 376 population of the three atolls before the arrival of the slave traders, less than two weeks later. The missionaries were ashore at each of the islands, spending at least one day in each. They report as follows:

“The population of the group may be estimated thus:

Atafu 140
Nukunonu 140
Fakaofo 250
About 530” 8
8   Ibid.

To this estimate should be added the 20 castaways left in Samoa, at least eight (four men and four women) who were at Olosoga, 39 and perhaps a number (entirely unknown) still in Uvea. The conditions on each island were, however, somewhat different. The entire population of Atafu had “embraced Christianity” and “with the exception of two individuals polygamy had been abolished.” 40 Fakaofo had just accepted two Samoan teachers of the L.M.S. Nukunonu was entirely Roman Catholic, and had refused to accept an L.M.S. teacher.

There are very few written records of events and conditions in Nukunonu before 1863, but what documentary fragments do exist substantiate the traditional accounts related by the people of the island today. At some time in the early 1840s a Frenchman named Jules Tyrel visited Nukunonu and, when he left, two youths who had served him on the island accompanied him to Uvea. One of these youths was Takua (later known by his baptismal name of Justin or Susetino), who, after his baptism and several years spent in the service of the Church in Uvea and Samoa, returned to Nukunonu to convert his countrymen. 41 Takua was still in Uvea when the party of Tokelauans arrived by canoe in 1846 and, according to the traditional Nukunonu account, the party which left Fakaofo because of famine made a successful landfall at Nukunonu, and took on provisions to continue the voyage to Atafu. Two young Nukunonu men are said to have joined this party at the last moment, leaping on to the stern of a canoe as they pushed it out over the reef, and were among the survivors who eventually reached Uvea. When Takua eventually returned - 377 to Nukunonu the people there were already acquainted with Protestantism; nevertheless he rapidly established the Roman Catholic faith and the London Missionary Society was never able to secure a foothold on the island.

Slave Traders

Very shortly after the Christian missions were established, the atolls were visited by ships engaged in the Peruvian slave trade. Bird 42 describes their visits to Fakaofo in the following terms:

Only ten days after the “John Williams” left Fakaofo (2nd Febry) the first slavers arrived. The crew went ashore armed with guns and swords and frightened the people to death. They took off 16 of the finest men in the island and shortly after a second vessel arrived and took off 44 men. A third slaver arrived and took off 4 men and 76 women and children. Only six men and thirty women and a few children are left. Left because not worth taking being diseased or old and infirm . . . [The Samoan teacher] has returned to Samoa . . .
The dysentery brought by the returned castaways also took a severe toll. “In three weeks 64 out of a population of 261 were swept off”. 43 Assuming that the population figure of 261 is correct (and it corresponds roughly with the 250 estimate made by Gill and Bird in January 1863), if 64 died of dysentery and 140 were taken by the slavers, then only 57 people remained on the island.

Nukunonu was also raided at about the same time. Bird's brief account of the raids was gathered from a party “3 men, 5 women and some children” which had escaped to Samoa in two canoes. They reported that “Five slavers had been there . . . The first took off 60 people, the second six and the third ten, leaving about 20 people in the land . . . the foreigners inspected them like animals casting aside the old diseased and bundling off all the others on board ship.” 44

Bird's account of the visit of the blackbirders to Atafu is based upon three obviously disjointed and frantic letters from the Rarotongan teacher there. The first vessel took away the “king” and 13 other men. Two further vessels arrived shortly afterwards and took away more. It seems that either 34 or 35 men were taken altogether from Atafu, leaving only women and children and six men. 45

From these accounts, we may estimate the population of the Tokelaus after the slavers had finally left, as follows:

Fakaofo 57
Nukunonu 20 (Though some sources suggest 40)
Atafu 105

If we add to this figure the 20 castaways in Samoa, the four couples at - 378 Olosega, and three men who later returned to the Tokelaus after having been put ashore from a slave ship in Tutuila, 46 the total comes to just over 200 persons.


The first foreigner to take advantage of this depopulation of the islands was a man named Ben Hughes, who arrived on Fakaofo about 1863. He is described in several sources as an American, but he remains a shadowy figure, known only through vernacular accounts recorded some time after his departure. It seems certain that he was involved with the slave ships, and the fact that he was reported to have brought with him “a wife and child and three natives of Penrhyn” 47 makes it probable that he was the same “Beni” who is recorded as being at Penrhyn at that period. 48 Hughes alienated one large islet of the atoll and introduced a number of labourers to work it, but he does not seem to have stayed for very long on Fakaofo. The islet was leased in 1867 to Antonio Pereira, a Portuguese of African descent born in the Cape Verde Islands, 49 and finally bought by his part-Samoan son Joseph in 1902; the entire islet then remained in the hands of this man's part-Tokelauan descendants until 1956 when a large portion of it was purchased and vested in the people of Fakaofo to use as a village area. Joseph Pereira also alienated other large areas of Fakaofo during the 1870s and was able to control and exploit them by manipulating the rift between the Protestant and Roman Catholic factions until his claims were finally disallowed by the Western Pacific High Commission in 1892. 50

Another trader, referred to as a potukī paepae “white Portuguese” was established in the islands by the 1870s, and has left part-Tokelauan descendants on Nukunonu. A later potukī Amelika “American Portuguese” had children by women in each of the three atolls, all of whom now have descendants in the islands. By the 1880s there was a German trader on Fakaofo who had children by a local woman, but whose descendants are now in the Ellice group; and a Scottish trader on Nukunonu whose part-Tokelauan part-Samoan descendants are now mostly in Western Samoa and New Zealand.

The generation following 1863 thus saw the establishment of a wide variety of immigrants in the atolls. The labourers imported by Hughes included four men from Penrhyn, three from Samoa and one Maori—though it is not known whether he was from New Zealand or the Cook Islands. If one adds to these the various varieties of Portuguese—“black”, “white”, and “American”—the German, the Scotsman, a - 379 Frenchman (said by one source to be a nobleman) who has left descendants by a Fakaofo woman, the part-Tokelauan family of the American Eli Jennings on Olosega, various Uveans, Ellice Islanders and a man from Ontong Java in the Solomons who settled on Fakaofo in the 1890s, the result is an improbably bizarre genetic mixture.

All of these individuals who left children in the atolls can be located in current genealogies, and the genetic implications of their sojourns can be assessed. 51 It is more difficult, however, to gauge the impact of the migrants on Tokelau society and culture of the late nineteenth century. The Polynesians apparently settled smoothly into the local communities, but the Europeans created for themselves a niche as traders, setting up shops and acting as agents for the purchase of copra. None of them was quite as grasping and disruptive to Tokelau society as the Pereiras; but all were drawn to some extent into the village communities. They may be credited with having established the Market sector of the Tokelau economy, though this remained small and marginal to the mainstream of Tokelau life during the nineteenth century.

Colonial Administration

Since the Tokelaus were not at that time “. . . within the jurisdiction of any civilised Power”, they came within the scope of the Imperial Western Pacific Order in Council of 1877. The High Commissioner in Fiji was thus given jurisdiction over British subjects in the islands, but none over the islanders themselves. The Tokelauans, acting with the advice of missionaries in Western Samoa, were able to stay the more rapacious traders and to set in train a long series of petitions and pleas to nullify Hughes' purchase of land. The declaration of Protectorates over each of the islands in 1889 merely extended and intensified British influence and power, but brought few, if any, material changes in the local life or institutions. 52 The people of Fakaofo, after their initial puzzlement had worn off, were reported to be “highly gratified” with the Protectorate, 53 but in Nukunonu there was resistance on the grounds that the island's first allegiance lay to the French Mission which had established a church government on the island. No British Residents were established in the atolls after the declaration of the Protectorates, but visits were made from time to time by Western Pacific High Commission officials from Western Samoa.

When Germany gained control over Western Samoa at the turn of the century, the administrative centre for the Tokelaus was shifted first to Tonga and then to Ocean Island; the islands were included in the Gilbert and Ellice Islands Protectorate in 1908 and for a few years following that they had the services of three resident English district

- 380

officers, one of whom was a qualified doctor. Protectorate laws and local government structure were introduced, and opportunities made available for people to sign on as migrant labourers in Ocean Island and the Phoenix Group. These labour contracts frequently allowed individuals a chance to visit islands of the neighbouring Ellice group, but this did not lead to any permanent emigration from the Tokelaus, or bring in many Ellice Island spouses. From the demographic point of view, the most important aspect of the Protectorate ties at this time was the establishment of medical services. In 1913, three Tokelauans were sent to Fiji for medical training of a relatively sophisticated kind, while others were sent to the Ellice Islands for instruction as dressers and medical aides. Thatched hospitals, made of local materials, were built on each of the atolls and - 381 the two Tokelauans who qualified in Fiji set about their medical and Public Health work.

. . . dysentery, infective hepatitis, T.B. and skin diseases were very common before and after the arrival of these doctors to the Islands, and several outbreaks of some of these diseases claimed a few lives. Evidence of T.B. adenitis, both cervical and axillary were common. The doctors evidently removed most of the T.B. glands. They also performed herniorrhaphies, appendicectomies, radical cure of hydrocele and other minor operations. Circumcision was then handled by the doctors which before had been performed by the villagers.
Local public health hazards were many and serious. Gastroenteritis, malnutrition and upper respiratory infections were also common especially when a boat came to the islands bringing virus infections . . . The water supply was improved, proper latrines were built, and pigs were removed from the villages. 54

If this account is accurate (it was written from information supplied by elderly local informants and not from contemporary records) the medical services were clearly effective. By 1922, a visiting medical specialist was able to report that “. . . The health of the natives of the three islands . . . was very good, and their sanitary arrangements and general cleanliness were excellent.” 55 This report documents two cases of chronic syphilis in Atafu and a further two in Fakaofo, elephantiasis in Nukunonu and Fakaofo, and the fact that yaws was “known at times”. Both hookworm and tuberculosis were reported to be “not apparent” in the group. The formation in 1925 of village Women's Committees on the Samoan pattern led to further improvements in public health education, especially in the field of child care, personal hygiene, nutrition and pest control. These committees are still active in the three islands.

The administration of the Tokelaus from the Gilbert and Ellice Islands was, from the beginiing, beset with difficulties of communication. Ocean Island, the administrative centre of the Gilbert and Ellice, was about 1200 nautical miles distant, and even the southernmost islands of the Ellice chain were separated from the Tokelaus by over 500 miles of open ocean. It was not until the 1920s, when New Zealand was awarded a League of Nations mandate over Western Samoa, that a more satisfactory solution to these difficulties could be found. In 1925, by an Imperial Order in Council, the boundaries of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands Colony were redefined so as to exclude the Tokelaus, and authority for the administration of the islands was transferred to the New Zealand Government. The administration of the islands then became the responsibility of the New Zealand Administrator of Western Samoa.

From the point of view of the Tokelauans, this change made eminent sense. For, regardless of all the temporary expedients and ad hoc rearrangements made for the admistration of the group from 1899 onwards, the culture dominance of Samoa in the atolls was established early, and was persistent. The early mission teachers and catechists were mainly - 382 Samoans, who introduced their own Bible and made the people literate in Samoan only. The religious and formal oratorical vocabularies of Tokelauan are to this day almost wholly Samoan in derivation. As early as the latter part of the nineteenth century, Apia had become a metropolitan centre of sorts for the three atolls; itwas theMission headquarters, the centre of trade, and the place to which children were sent for formal education beyond that which could be provided in the atolls. Although the Gilbert and Ellice Colony laws remained in force after the transfer of Administration, village government was reorganised to conform with the Samoan pattern. The Tokelaus become the concern (certainly not the major one) of the Samoan Native Affairs Department, which ran what was essentially a service operation — supplying the hospitals, improving water catchments and seeing to the appointment and payment of local officials. Education in the atolls was left to the Roman Catholic and Protestant missions until 1956.


It is unlikely that there was much permanent emigration from the atolls during the period between the departure of the slave ships in 1863 and the end of the century. Historical records make no reference to any movement of population away from the atolls, and genealogical evidence shows that virtually all those who were left in the islands after the events of 1863 lived out the remainder of their lives there, as did their children. A few men, together with their wives and children, went to Mission schools in Samoa to train as catechists and pastors and, of these, a few later worked in New Guinea or the Ellice group; but they returned to Tokelau at the end of their working years. The only permanent movement from the atolls was that of a few children of immigrant traders, who went to live in Western Samoa. Although the figures for the period are not very reliable, they nevertheless show a fairly consistent pattern of population increase; it is only between 1878 and 1881 that both Atafu and Fakaofo show small decreases—though for what reasons it is not known. Calculations of average annual growth rates over the period (see Table 2) are necessarily tinged with an air of unreality; but if we assume, as seems likely, that the slave traders left most of the children and took most of the adults, then both of the annual rates calculated from 1863, 1.35 percent and 3.38 percent, fall within the bounds of probability.

During the early 1900s, there is evidence of a greater mobility in the populations. Hunter's report for 1902 records 20 persons from Atafu and one family from Fakaofo away in Olosega at the time of his visit; in 1904, there were 72 men, women and children from Atafu, as well as a further 15 from Fakaofo who were absent in the Phoenix Islands and Olosega. 56 Most of this movement was for temporary labour contracts. None of those who went to the Phoenix group stayed on there, but the labourers in Olosega had more alternatives open to them. The island was owned by an American family which had close ties with American Samoa and main- - 383 tained a labour force drawn from a number of islands—Tonga, Niue, Pukapuka, Samoa, Tokelau and even Ontong Java. It appears that labourers who had been resident on the island for a period were allowed to move on to American Samoa to settle; in this way some of the Tokelauans who went to the island on labour contracts (or their children) moved away to become permanent emigrants. The genealogical evidence (so far as it can be dated) confirms that this took place in a number of instances.

By 1910, Tokelauans were moving even further afield, and in considerably greater numbers. The census for that year 57 recorded 53 persons absent in Olosega, 63 in Samoa, 19 in the Ellice group and one man working as a seaman. Those away in Samoa at the time were there for either religious training or wage employment; Nukunonu had 13 “men” in Samoa at the time of the census, leaving only 37 “men” on the home atoll. Those absent in the Ellice group were London Missionary Society pastors and their families, all from either Atafu or Fakaofo. Again, there is no direct indication of how long any of these persons stayed away from Tokelau, but this pattern of movements certainly continued until New Zealand assumed control over the islands in 1925, with a steady outflow of population on a more or less permanent basis to both Olosega and Samoa.

The first New Zealand Government publication on the group showed an awareness of a range of social problems that might arise from the atolls' limited resources, normal population growth, and the changing aspirations of the inhabitants.

The people are healthy and increasing in numbers, but the resources of the islands are limited, and, as the needs of the Natives increase, the land will support fewer people than it would do if they remained in a primitive condition. For these reasons the migration of the Tokelau-Islanders must be strictly controlled by the Government, otherwise inequality of the sexes will lead to undesirable results, while land troubles are likely to arise as the population increases. . . . . . . The question as to what numbers these islands will support depends upon the growing needs of the Natives and the fertility of the soil. As the latter cannot be improved to any extent, I estimate for the present, in order to live comfortably, the number of people on these atolls should not exceed – Atafu, 350; Nukunono [sic], 500; Fakaofo, 400; total, 1,250. 58

The rate of natural increase of the population was believed to be “almost 3 percent”, and on this basis the prediction was made that “in - 384 the not-very-distant future provision must be made for transferring some of the surplus population to Samoa or other islands”. 59

This, however, turned out to be unnecessary. The New Zealand Administration arranged for the education of a few children at schools in Western Samoa, but others—both children and adults—left for Samoa of their own accord. Neither was much further notice taken of the Report's estimates of optimum population sizes for “comfortable living” in the atolls. Over the following two decades, most visiting Administrators simply collected total population figures by sex on each atoll in the course of their brief and necessarily busy tours, and from time to time evinced their concern at the rising numbers.

Although the numbers certainly rose, the average annual growth rate remained at only 1.24 percent during the decade following 1926. This is a comparatively low rate, but in the absence of any annual records of births, deaths and migration, it is impossible to say with any certainty why it should have been so. The most likely supposition remains that it was due to emigration, with Western Samoa as the destination. Again, this explanation is supported by (undated) genealogical data, by informants' statements, and by the fact that the average annual growth rate rose considerably during the period which included the Second World War, when shipping was uncertain and population movements were restricted.


Our survey of over a century of Tokelau history indicates that the atolls can in no sense be regarded as an isolated demographic backwater or as

Average Annual Growth Rates in Intercensal Periods, 1863-1951
Intercensal Period Atafu Fakaofo Nukunonu Tokelau
Pre-slavers : 1893-1900       1.35%
Post-slavers : 1863-1900       3.38%
1900-1910       0.27%
1910-1926       0.53%
1926-1936 0.49% 1.35% 2.15% 1.24%
1936-1945 1.96% 1.27% 2.84% 1.89%
1945-1951 0.26% 2.49% 3.43% 2.06%

providing an ideal laboratory situation for studies of “natural” population changes under conditions of limited resources. It was only during the pre-European period that anything like these natural conditions prevailed. During the first half of the nineteenth century, and indeed for some time before that, the three islands were a single political, social and (probably) demographic unit. Fakaofo was dominant, having virtually - 385 colonised the other islands, deriving annual tribute from them and sending settlers from among its own population. It is not unlikely that demographic pressures lay behind this expansion, but because there are no population figures available for the period, there is little more that can be said.

Then in the early 1850s the Group's isolation was broken. Remote, economically poor and strategically useless as the atolls were, they did not escape intrusion from the outside world; and, on the local scale, the consequent disruptions were very severe. With mass exodus (to Uvea), wholesale religious conversion and kidnapping, epidemics of fatal diseases, and comparatively large-scale alienation of land and settlement by immigrant foreigners, the demographic histories of many larger societies appear tranquil by comparison.

The subsequent growth of the population was radically modified by the involvement of the atolls in the larger and encroaching colonial system whose local emissaries were traders, missionaries and itinerant colonial officials. A number of distinct stages are evident in the overall pattern of growth. The first, from 1863 through the early 1900s, is characterised by immigration, very little emigration, and a high rate of growth. Then developing contacts with Olosega and Samoa led to labour migration which effectively reduced the overall rate of growth for the next 25 years or so. The third period begins with New Zealand control over the islands in 1926 and lasts until the early 1950s. This was a period of relatively higher and steadily rising growth rates, due perhaps to the combined effects of Administration control over emigration, the Depression which reduced demand for wage-labourers, the travel restrictions due to the Second World War, and some improvement in medical services.

Tokelau De Facto Population, By sex, Age and Atoll, 25 September, 1951
Age Group Atafu     Fakaofo     Nukunonu     Total    
  M F P M F P M F P M F P
0-4 27 45 72 47 68 115 31 40 71 105 153 258
5-9 26 26 52 40 58 98 32 34 66 98 118 216
10-14 19 33 52 41 40 81 37 22 59 97 95 192
15-19 17 26 43 28 27 55 18 23 41 63 76 139
20-24 18 23 41 25 22 47 16 23 39 59 68 127
25-29 14 13 27 22 22 44 18 20 38 54 55 109
30-34 9 12 21 22 26 48 23 17 40 54 55 109
35-39 12 8 20 17 14 31 8 7 15 37 29 66
40-44 11 7 18 4 11 15 14 10 24 29 28 57
45-49 12 13 25 10 18 28 5 6 11 27 37 64
50-54 10 13 23 17 12 29 12 10 22 39 35 74
55-59 10 12 22 8 12 20 5 5 18 29 47
60-64 5 10 15 11 10 21 5 2 7 21 22 43
65+ 9 18 27 10 20 30 7 6 13 26 44 70
Total 199 259 458 302 360 662 226 225 451 727 844 1571
  • Source: Jupp 1957, Table 4.
- 386
Tokelau De Facto Population, By Sex, Age and Atoll, 25 September 1956
Age Group Atafu     Fakaofo     Nukunonu     Total    
  M F P M F P M F P M F P
0 6 6 12 10 13 23 7 11 18 137 126 263
1-4 31 39 70 56 32 88 27 25 52      
5-9 26 39 65 37 65 102 28 45 73 91 149 240
10-14 23 27 50 34 48 82 38 32 70 95 107 202
15-19 16 23 39 25 26 51 19 19 38 60 68 128
20-24 11 27 38 18 19 37 15 12 27 44 58 102
25-29 16 22 38 22 27 49 16 24 40 54 73 127
30-34 13 11 24 19 20 39 13 22 35 45 53 98
35-39 9 10 19 14 21 35 20 6 26 43 37 80
40-44 14 9 23 15 17 32 9 7 16 38 33 71
45-49 8 10 18 9 13 22 7 9 16 24 32 56
50-54 13 10 23 9 14 23 8 12 20 30 36 66
55-59 9 9 18 11 13 24 7 4 11 27 26 53
60-64 10 11 21 8 10 18 1 4 5 19 25 44
65+ 6 25 31 17 24 41 8 8 16 31 56 87
Total 211 278 489 304 362 666 223 240 463 738 880 1618
  • Source: Jupp 1957, Table 2.
  • Notes: In her presentation of the results of this census, Jupp distinguishes three ethnic categories, “Tokelauan”, “Part Tokelauan” and “Others”. The criteria used by the census enumerators to distinguish between “Tokelauan” and “Part Tokelauan” are not given; but because all persons of part-Tokelauan descent in the islands live wholly as Tokelauans, we do not regard the distinction as a useful one, and have aggregated the two categories in this table. Jupp's category of “Others” is composed of 21 persons, one of them being “the only European in the Islands”. The other 20 in this category were almost certainly other Polynesians (mainly Samoans) either connected with the churches, or married to Tokelauans. The European has been omitted from this table and the remaining 20 “Others” have been aggregated with the “Tokelauan” category.
Tokelau De Facto Population, By Sex, Age and Atoll, 25 September 1961
Age Group Atafu     Fakaofo     Nukunonu     Total    
  M F P M F P M F P M F P
0-4 59 50 109 75 78 153 48 41 89 182 169 351
5-9 40 43 83 64 50 114 37 37 74 141 130 271
10-14 27 37 64 37 65 102 32 40 72 96 142 238
15-19 16 22 38 27 37 64 22 27 49 65 86 151
20-24 15 21 36 18 30 48 18 20 38 51 71 122
25-29 14 24 38 24 23 47 15 15 30 53 62 115
30-34 17 24 41 20 29 49 15 20 35 52 73 125
35-39 13 9 22 23 21 44 13 17 30 49 47 96
40-44 10 10 20 13 17 30 14 7 21 37 34 71
45-49 14 12 26 15 17 32 13 10 23 42 39 81
50-54 9 10 19 8 12 20 4 8 12 21 30 51
55-59 12 11 23 7 13 20 10 7 17 29 31 60
60-64 7 8 15 13 13 26 5 6 11 25 27 52
65+ 12 28 40 14 20 34 5 7 12 31 55 86
Total 265 309 574 358 425 783 251 262 513 874 996 1870
  • Source: Department of Statistics, Wellington.
- 387
Tokelau De Facto Population, By Sex, Age and Atoll, 24 September 1966
Age Group Atafu     Fakaofo     Nukunonu     Total    
  M F P M F P M F P M F P
0-4 67 55 122 71 66 137 45 41 86 183 162 345
5-9 55 54 109 67 63 130 53 52 105 175 169 344
10-14 42 37 79 49 45 94 36 35 71 127 117 244
15-19 14 26 40 19 35 54 17 26 43 50 87 137
20-24 6 16 22 12 16 28 14 18 32 32 50 82
25-29 12 16 28 13 24 37 11 13 24 36 53 89
30-34 18 26 44 15 22 37 11 22 33 44 70 114
35-39 15 20 35 18 23 41 15 22 37 48 65 113
40-44 9 9 18 12 18 30 16 14 30 37 41 78
45-49 10 9 19 13 16 29 15 7 22 38 32 70
50-54 12 10 22 15 16 31 9 7 16 36 33 69
55-59 8 6 14 7 13 20 7 9 16 22 28 50
60-64 10 10 20 7 11 18 7 6 13 24 27 51
65+ 12 31 43 18 29 47 10 15 25 40 75 115
Total 290 325 615 336 397 733 266 287 553 892 1009 1901
  • Source: Department of Statistics, Wellington.
Tokelau De Facto Population, By Sex, Age and Atoll, 31 March 1971
Age Group Atafu     Fakaofo     Nukunonu     Total    
  M F P M F P M F P M F P
0-4 50 59 109 54 43 97 24 20 44 128 122 250
5-9 49 50 99 52 52 104 37 32 69 138 134 272
10-14 46 44 90 49 48 97 26 33 59 121 125 246
15-19 27 32 59 29 35 64 14 20 34 70 87 157
20-24 9 18 27 13 28 41 7 13 20 29 59 88
25-29 8 8 16 9 15 24 8 14 22 25 37 62
30-34 12 14 26 9 20 29 7 9 16 28 43 71
35-39 12 26 38 10 20 30 5 9 14 27 55 82
40-44 14 12 26 15 15 30 9 15 24 38 42 80
45-49 8 8 16 11 16 27 10 8 18 29 32 61
50-54 10 7 17 15 14 29 10 7 17 35 28 63
55-59 6 6 12 9 10 19 7 6 13 22 22 44
60-64 8 9 17 5 6 11 3 6 9 16 21 37
65+ 19 27 46 18 32 50 15 16 31 52 75 127
Total 278 320 598 298 354 652 182 208 390 758 882 1640
  • Source: Anthropologists' censuses.
  • Notes: The figures for Atafu given above include 4 resident non-Tokelau Polynesians and exclude 5 temporarily resident Europeans. Those for Fakaofo include 4 resident non-Tokelau Polynesians and exclude 6 temporarily resident Europeans. For Nukunonu, the figures include 8 resident non-Tokelau Polynesians and exclude 6 Europeans and 1 Samoan who were temporary residents.

Since 1951, population data on the Tokelaus have been gathered in considerably more detail than in previous years. The Tokelau Islands Administration has made systematic enumerations of the de facto populations of the atolls at five-year intervals, reporting age as well as sex - 388 structures of the populations. The 1956 Administration census (which has been thoroughly analysed by Jupp) 60 was made with the advice of a professional demographer, and it has served as a model for all subsequent official censuses. In addition, we have our own censuses made during the course of field studies in Nukunonu and Fakaofo in 1967, 1969 and 1971 and in Atafu in 1971. These data (see Tables 3-8), combined with much fuller records of significant social events in the atolls, enable more detailed comparisons to be made.

The period of 20 years since 1951 has seen demographic changes in the islands more sweeping than any which have taken place since the 1880s. Each of the atolls reached its highest ever reported population during the 1960s, and each population has since been structurally modified by emigration.

In 1951, there were 220 persons (122 males and 98 females) resident in Western Samoa who had been born in the Tokelau Islands. By 1956, the number had increased by 77 to 297 (179 males and 118 females). Although these figures show a substantial amount of migration from the Tokelaus, there are indications that the population loss from the atolls between 1951 and 1956 was actually much higher. Jupp, 61 using admittedly incomplete and questionable records of births and deaths, calculated a discrepancy of 194 persons between her estimated population of the atolls in 1956 and

De Facto Populations of Fakaofo and Nukunonu, By Sex and Age, At 31 December 1967 and 31 December 1969
      Nukunonu           Fakaofo      
Age Group 1967     1969     1967     1969    
  M F P M F P M F P M F P
0-4 41 34 75 25 22 47 69 56 125 59 50 109
5-9 49 47 96 37 33 70 67 63 130 67 57 124
10-14 39 43 82 26 38 64 53 47 100 51 59 110
15-19 19 28 47 13 21 34 31 31 62 41 34 75
20-24 10 18 28 7 19 26 9 21 30 10 20 30
25-29 10 14 24 9 5 14 14 15 29 10 18 28
30-34 10 16 26 7 13 20 9 27 36 10 24 34
35-39 9 18 27 6 9 15 15 19 34 11 14 25
40-44 19 15 34 10 14 24 16 20 36 11 22 33
45-49 11 14 25 13 11 24 11 17 28 14 17 31
50-54 12 7 19 9 7 16 17 13 30 16 12 28
55-59 7 7 14 9 7 16 10 10 20 10 11 21
60-64 8 10 18 2 8 10 6 16 22 5 11 16
65+ 12 10 22 16 15 31 17 29 46 16 34 50
Total 256 281 537 189 222 411 344 384 728 331 383 714
  • Source: Anthropologists' censuses.
  • Notes: The figures include various permanently resident non-Tokelau Polynesians, who comprise less than one percent of the total population. Europeans, all of whom were temporary residents, are excluded.
- 389

the enumerated population. Even allowing for the inadequacies of the record, and the increase of 77 in the Tokelau-born population of Western Samoa, the difference of 117 persons (194 minus 77) is too large a number to be left completely unaccounted for. Where, then, did they get to? It is certain that none moved to New Zealand during the period; some doubtless went to Olosega and American Samoa, and it is not unlikely that others were actually in Western Samoa but were not correctly identified by the 1956 census. It is known that a number of Tokelauans in Western Samoa, and especially those who married Samoans in the rural areas, consciously sought to identify themselves with Samoan society, maintaining no regular ties with their Tokelau kinsmen or with Tokelau affairs. Nevertheless, there was also a self-conscious Tokelau ethnic minority which was centred on Apia and the activities of the Fakalapotopotoga Tokelau i Samoa i Sisif o “The Tokelau Association of Western Samoa”. Membership of this voluntary association reached a peak of about 500 men, women and children during the late 1950s, and included many Tokelauans with Samoan spouses. Besides assisting those from the atolls who came to Western Samoa as casual visitors, hospital patients and students, the association sought to buy land. Money for this purpose was collected from both local members and individuals in Atafu and Fakaofo, and was augmented by proceeds from a host of communal fund-raising activities. An area of more than four acres within Apia township was purchased by the association in 1960, and developed for both settlement and garden crops. In spite of factional disputes, this area became the focus of Tokelau settlement and a substantial symbol of the Tokelau ethnic identity in Western Samoa. 62

Then, in January 1962, Western Samoa became an independent State. The immigrant Tokelauans became no longer merely members of an ethnic minority but aliens placed at a marked disadvantage in a situation of intense competition for wage employment. It was this fact that initiated the Tokelau migration to New Zealand.

From the outset, this migration has been encouraged and to a large extent sponsored by the New Zealand Government. In early 1963, ten Tokelau girls travelled from the atolls to New Zealand as sponsored migrants in an official programme which was designed to counter “. . . future problems of overcrowding” and “. . . to restore some degree of balance in the population” 63 which showed a surplus of females. In the following two years, 30 single males and females were assisted to migrate to New Zealand. 64 A destructive hurricane in the atolls in early 1966 gave further impetus to the scheme, which became formally known as the Tokelau Islands Resettlement Scheme, and during the next two years 35 single males and 35 single females were brought to New Zealand as assisted migrants. 65

In its early years, the Tokelau Islands Resettlement Scheme generated a lot of public interest in New Zealand, which was reflected in press reports - 390 emphasising the ambitious nature of the project. One such report, typical of others, stated that “. . . the New Zealand proposal involves resettlement of 1000 of the Islanders in New Zealand over the next five years, with others to follow”; 66 but it is not known whether this was really the intention of the Government. The exact ages of the 100 single males and females who were assisted migrants to New Zealand between 1963 and 1967 are also unfortunately not known at the present time, but it is likely that almost all of them were between 20 and 30 years of age when they left the islands.

In 1967, Government policy changed, and since then families have been sponsored in preference to single persons. The total number of Government-sponsored migrants up to March 31, 1971, was 356; this total is made up of 118 single persons brought for wage employment, 35 single persons on school and trade-training scholarships, and 41 nuclear families (82 adults with 136 children and 20 grandparents). The Resettlement Scheme has also prompted a good deal of privately sponsored migration from both the atolls and the Tokelau minority in Western Samoa, with the result that in mid-1972 there were some 1600 Tokelauans and part-Tokelauans in New Zealand. An ethnographic survey of Tokelauans in Western Samoa in 1971 established an effective ethnic population of only 209 persons. 67

The pattern of population changes in Fakaofo between 1951 and 1971 is characterised by a very slight increase of only 4 persons between 1951 and 1956, followed by a sudden increase of 117 over the following intercensal period, 1956-61. In 1961, the total population of the atoll was the highest ever recorded. Fakaofo was thus the first of the three islands to reach its population maximum, preceding both Nukunonu and Atafu by some five years. Since 1961, the total population has declined steadily.

The reason for the very small increase in total numbers over the 1951-56 quinquennium is undoubtedly to be found in the heavy losses through emigration. Between 1951 and 1956, Fakaofo lost 87 persons who were in the 0-19 age cohort in 1951; by contrast, only 24 of those in this age range in 1956 had left before 1961. The most likely explanation for this variation in the rate of emigration is to be found in the changing economic circumstances in Western Samoa during the 1950s. For approximately the first half of the decade, the economy was buoyant, but after two years of falling export earnings in 1956 and 1957 “the sense of economic well being . . . was replaced by a feeling of crisis affecting both the government and the people”. 68 For the people of Fakaofo, the declining opportunities in Western Samoa were to some extent offset by the developments which were being made on the islet of Fenuafala. In mid-1955, the people of the island were told of the purchase by the Administration of some 53 acres of the islet from the part-Portuguese family which had controlled it since 1867, the land being vested in the people of the island for the establishment of a new village. A considerable number of families did, in fact, build - 391 houses in the new area in the late 1950s, and there were widespread hopes of further developments to take place on the island.

Then, in the early 1960s, the hopes subsided as disputes arose over plans for the use and allocation of the new land. For a period of several years it seemed doubtful whether any developments would take place at all, and this may well have led many Fakaofo people to take advantage of the newly opened opportunities for migration to New Zealand. For various reasons, Fakaofo was uniquely placed to respond very rapidly to these opportunities. A large proportion of the Tokelau population in Western Samoa at the time of that country's independence in 1962 were from Fakaofo, and over the following year or so many of them left for New Zealand. Once established there, they were in a position to finance the emigration of others from the atoll. There was also a considerable exodus of schoolteachers from the island in the early 1960s; these men were in a position to pay their own fares, and, a short while later, to pay for their entire families to emigrate.

The pattern of net population decline on the atoll has continued through the five years following 1966 in spite of substantial gains from births and the movement of people back to the atoll from other islands in the group, and from Samoa (see Table 9). Between December 1967 and December 1969, Fakaofo gained 83 new persons (about half of them born within the period and the remainder either new arrivals or returning residents) and yet sustained a total population loss of 14 becasuse of the departure of 97 people, some two thirds of whom were migrants to New Zealand. Again, between December 1969 and March 1971, the 52 births and new arrivals were offset by 114 departures, 79 of whom were migrants to New Zealand. Later in 1971, however, there were no Fakaofo applicants for assisted passage to New Zealand, and provisional results from the official census of February 1972 show a population of 653, which is a gain of one person over the previous 11 months. It thus seems likely that Fakaofo has completed its first spurt of migration to New Zealand.

Nukunonu between 1951 and 1971 has followed a different pattern of population change from that of Fakaofo. The total population continued to rise at a steady rate right through until 1966, and then declined very rapidly as large numbers of people left for New Zealand. Emigration, as a regular and established part of the pattern of life, may not have become accepted in Nukunonu until relatively late—but once accepted it proved to be immediately attractive to a considerable part of the population. Nukunonu is, in fact, the only one of the three atolls to have undergone an overall poulation loss during the 20-year period.

It is difficult to say with any certainty why Nukunonu sent relatively fewer numbers of migrants abroad during the period of 50 years or so up to 1956, when there was a steady flow of migrants from both Fakaofo and Atafu to Western Samoa, Olosega and American Samoa. Part of the reason may lie in the fact that the Protestant owners of Olosega never recruited labour (or else were unable to recruit) from wholly Roman Catholic Nukunonu. Because of this, the main migration route to American Samoa was closed to the Nukunonu population. Another - 392 reason may lie in the fact that, as the largest of the three islands and the one with consistently the lowest total population, there simply was not the same pressure on the local resources. Whatever the explanation, there were relatively few people from Nukunonu resident in Western Samoa in the late 1950s when the Tokelau population there reached its highest point. Neither the independence of Western Samoa in 1962 nor the introduction of the Administration scheme of sponsoring the migration of young unmarried adults had any appreciable effect on the steady growth of the Nukunonu population numbers. The course of that growth was not appreciably changed until after the introduction of the plan to sponsor the migration of whole families to New Zealand, in 1967.

There was then a rush to New Zealand. A number of local events and circumstances worked together to produce this rapid exodus. The hurricane which struck the group in 1966 did the most damage in Nukunonu, affecting the breadfruit so severely that the trees were not fruiting adequately even at the end of the following year; and by August 1968 the people were eating takale “heart of palm” whose production kills the palms from which it is taken, and which is regarded by the people as a famine food. The hurricane damage was also followed by an apparent increase in the depredations of the rhinoceros beetle (Orcyctes rhinoceros) which had accidentally been brought to the atoll several years previously. By late 1967, it appeared that if the beetle continued to increase, coconut production would be severely curtailed, and both the local people and members of the Administration had begun to consider the possibility that the atoll might eventually be depopulated. Given these restrictions of the food supply and the prospects of an uncertain future, emigration understandably became a very attractive alternative. The opportunities to do so provided by the Administration scheme were considerably augmented by the willingness of the young unmarried people who had migrated between 1963 and 1966 to pay fares for their kinsmen to follow them.

Between December 1967 and December 1969, a total of 150 people left the atoll for New Zealand, 62 as assisted migrants and 88 with their fares paid by kinsmen in New Zealand. This was more than double the number that left Fakaofo for New Zealand during the same period (see Table 9). The net population loss in Nukunonu over the two-year period was 126, by comparison with Fakaofo's loss of only 14. This decline continued at a much reduced rate during the period between December 1969 and March 1971 when only 36 people migrated to New Zealand and the net loss of population was only 21. But, in contrast to the situation in Fakaofo, it appears that the Nukunonu decline is continuing; provisional results from the February 1972 official census show a total population of only 368 persons, a loss of a further 28 persons since March 1971. This has occurred in spite of the sentiment very widely expressed on the island that there has already been more than enough emigration.

Population changes on Atafu between 1951 and 1971 show yet another pattern—one of steady growth until 1966 followed by five years of relatively stable population numbers. Although the Tokelau Association in Western

- 393
Population Changes in Fakaofo and Nukunonu Between 31 December 1967 and 31 December 1969, and between 1 January 1970 and 31 March 1971
  Fakaofo   Nukunonu  
  1967-1969 1970-1971 1967-1969 1970-1971
Births 41 20 24 9
from Tokelau 8 7 16 9
from Samoa 34 23 16 4
from N.Z. 2 2
Total Gain 83 52 56 24
Deaths 6 7 2
to Tokelau 5 13 6 2
to Samoa 25 14 17 7
to Tonga 1
to NZ—govt. sponsored 50 54 65 11
to NZ—privately sponsored 11 26 91 25
Total Loss 97 114 182 45
Net Change —14 —62 —126 —21
  • Source: Anthropologists' Censuses.
  • Note: The figures include various non-Tokelau Polynesians, and exclude Europeans.

Samoa was founded by an Atafu man, and Atafu emigrants made up a large proportion of the Tokelau population in both Western and American Samoa during the 1950s, there was, in fact, a relatively large amount of movement back and forth to the home island during the period. Other Tokelauans describe the pattern of movement of the Atafu people as one of relatively extended periods of residence in Samoa for wage labour followed by returns to the home island. The rise in the Atafu population between 1956 and 1961 parallels almost exactly the rise in Fakaofo, and was probably due to the same economic causes.

Between 1961 and 1966, however, very few people other than the unmarried government-sponsored migrants moved from Atafu to New Zealand, and population growth on the island paralleled that of Nukunonu during the same period. The introduction, in 1967, of the Administration scheme to sponsor the migration of whole families might have had a greater effect on subsequent population rises if it had not followed the people's decision to rebuild their Protestant church. This decision was made in 1966, prompted largely by the fact that the existing church was inadequate to seat the whole Protestant congregation, and the project generated a lot of enthusiasm. Many people must have deferred the plans which they had of emigrating, and the sponsored migrants (both the unmarried and the families) already in New Zealand used their savings to contribute to the church-building rather than initiate a pattern of chain migration. The church was finally dedicated in October 1971. In the annual count made the previous month, the total population of the island was the highest ever recorded, with 625 people. Since then, the numbers

- 394
Population Statistics, by atoll, 1951 to 1971
Date of Census Percentage 0-14 yrs Percentage 15-59 yrs Percentage 60+ yrs Masculinity of Population 15+ yrs Dependency Ratio (children) Dependency Ratio (aged) Replacement Ratio
25 Sept. 1951 38.4 52.4 9.2 450 1544 371 809
25 Sept. 1956 40.3 49.3 10.4 428 1807 467 803
25 Sept. 1961 44.6 45.8 9.6 437 2133 458 991
24 Sept. 1966 50.4 39.3 10.2 413 2981 606 1080
31 March 1971 49.8 39.6 10.5 443 2811 594 991
25 Sept. 1951 44.4 47.9 7.7 473 1922 333 943
25 Sept. 1956 44.3 46.8 8.9 450 2077 415 854
25 Sept. 1961 47.1 45.2 7.7 440 2381 387 975
24 Sept. 1966 49.2 41.9 8.9 401 2911 524 993
31 Dec. 1967 48.8 41.9 9.3 416 2689 515 940
31 Dec. 1969 48.0 42.7 9.2 415 2579 496 826
31 March 1971 45.7 44.9 9.4 404 2483 508 729
25 Sept. 1951 43.5 52.1 4.4 494 1193 175 888
25 Sept. 1956 45.8 49.7 4.5 488 1868 184 778
25 Sept. 1961 45.8 49.7 4.5 482 1895 185 840
24 Sept. 1966 47.4 45.8 6.9 454 2278 330 748
31 Dec. 1967 47.1 45.4 7.4 447 2364 374 688
31 Dec. 1969 44.0 46.0 10.0 439 2181 494 580
31 March 1971 44.1 43.1 12.8 436 2234 519 550
25 Sept. 1951 42.4 50.4 7.2 472 1753 297 830
25 Sept. 1956 43.5 48.4 8.1 454 1931 359 817
25 Sept. 1961 46.0 46.6 7.4 450 2155 346 941
24 Sept. 1966 49.1 42.2 8.7 420 2720 484 943
31 March 1971 46.8 43.2 10.0 425 2535 541 774
  • Souce: 1951 and 1956, Jupp 1957; 1961 and 1966, Department of Statistics, Wellington; 1967, 1969 and 1971, Anthropologists' censuses.
  • Note: see over

Notes: Masculinity, all males/all persons × 1000

Dependency Ratio (children), all persons 0-14/males 15-59 × 1000

Dependency Ratio (aged), all persons 60+/males 15-59 × 1000

Replacement Ratio, all persons 0-4/females 15-44 × 1000

- 395

have fallen fairly rapidly. Sixty-one persons left for New Zealand as sponsored migrants between February 1972 and February 1973, and an approximately equal number migrated with the assistance of kinsmen already established in New Zealand. Two successive years of drought, in 1971 and 1972, which severely curtailed coconut production and destroyed banana gardens, probably gave impetus to the emigration which was to be expected at the completion and dedication of the church.

While the changes in total population numbers over the 1951-71 period have been fairly striking, the modifications made in the population structures (see Table 10) have been, if anything, more marked, and certainly of more direct and immediate social significance.

The changes in age structure are most obvious. Firstly, there has been an increase in the proportion of the total Tokelau population aged 0-14 years, from 42 percent in 1951, to 47 percent in 1971. In each of the three islands, this proportion reached a maximum at the time of the 1966 census and has since (doubtless because of the Administration policy since 1967 of sponsoring the migration of whole families) shown a slight decline on each island. The decline has been least marked on Atafu, because of the relatively small amount of emigration from that island during the period. Secondly, there has been a fairly steady rise, consistent over the three islands, in the proportion of the population aged 60 and above. Thirdly, these proportional rises have been offset by an overall decline in the proportion of the total Tokelau population aged between 15 and 59 years—from 53 percent in 1951 to 43 percent in 1971. The social implications of these interrelated age-structure changes are somewhat more evident from the two Dependency Ratios which are included in Table 10. These express the degree to which the economically productive section of the population (the males aged between 15 and 59) supports the economically unproductive (those aged 0-14 and those aged 60 and above). In 1951, each 100 productive males supported 203 persons (175 children and 28 elderly); by 1971, they were supporting 307 persons (253 children and 54 elderly). The social effect of these changes is discussed below.

Changes in the sex structure over the past 20 years also follow the pattern common to other traditional rural populations depleted by emigration. Table 10 shows the masculinity ratios of the populations aged 15 years and above; in each island, the proportion of males dropped considerably, with the change being least marked on Atafu.

Although records of births and deaths have been made in each of the three islands for a long period, the interpretation of them is beset with various difficulties. For this reason, the only data available on Tokelau fertility are those provided by censuses—and, of the official censuses, only that for 1956 has been analysed in sufficient detail to be of use. Jupp provides records of the marital status of the 1956 population, together with the number of children ever born and the number of surviving children born to women in various age groups. These are matched by our own records for the three islands made during the course of 1971, which are summarised in Tables 11 and 12. Comparison of the 1956 and 1971 data - 396 is difficult because of the relatively small numbers of women in each age group and the large amount of emigration from that section of the female populations aged between 15 and 45 years. However, various changes in the pattern of Tokelau fertility are evident in the very broad age groupings shown in Table 13.

De Facto Population by Sex, Age group and Marital Status, Tokelau Islands, 31 March 1971
Age Group Never Married     Married     Widowed     Divorced     Total    
  M F P M F P M F P M F P M F P
under 15 387 381 768 387 381 768
15-19 68 81 149 2 2 68 83 151
20-24 12 36 48 10 20 30 22 56 78
25-29 3 10 13 22 27 49 25 37 62
30-34 1 10 11 26 31 57 1 1 12 57 69
35-39 1 5 6 28 48 76 2 2 29 55 84
40-44 3 1 4 36 38 74 3 3 1 1 39 43 82
45-49 2 5 7 24 21 45 4 4 8 1 1 30 31 61
50-54 4 4 31 23 54 1 1 2 1 1 2 33 29 62
55-59 2 2 22 14 36 5 5 22 21 43
60-64 2 2 13 13 26 2 5 7 15 20 35
65+ 2 7 9 36 24 60 12 42 54 50 73 123
Total 479 544 1023 248 261 509 20 62 82 1 3 4 748 870 1618
  • Source: Anthropologists' censuses.
  • Note: All marriages are legal marriages, sanctioned by churches. Included in the “Divorced” category are two cases of long-term separations from absent Samoan legal spouses.

Both Fakaofo and Nukunonu, the atolls from which there has been the greatest amount of emigration, show declines in the average number of live births per woman aged 15 years and above, with the decrease being more marked on Nukunonu than on Fakaofo. In both of the islands, these decreases are associated with rises in the percentages of unmarried females and childless females aged 15 and above, and declines in the masculinity of the adult populations. The pattern of these changes strongly suggests that the slight declines in fertility are due to the selective emigration of males.

The pattern of change in Atafu has been different, with a rise in the average number of live births per woman being associated with little or no change in the proportion of both the childless and unmarried females and a slight decline in the masculinity of the adult population. It is, however, likely that the same changes will occur on Atafu as have occurred on the other two islands.

The only information we have on which to base any statements about mortality in the Tokelau populations is admittedly incomplete and we discuss it here only because there have been no previous studies of the topic. The first set of data is derived from hospital records of deaths on Fakaofo between the beginning of 1964 and the end of 1970. The total

- 397
Women by Age groups and Size of Issue, Tokelau Islands, 31 March 1971.
Age of Women         Number of Children Ever Born to Women                       Total Women Total Children Average No. of Children per Woman
  0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15      
15-19 79 1 80 1 .01
20-24 35 15 4 3 1 58 36 .62
25-29 13 3 4 4 6 4 4 1 39 98 2.51
30-34 7 3 3 4 5 3 5 4 5 1 40 163 4.07
35-39 3 7 3 3 3 6 6 6 6 4 2 2 51 268 5.25
40-44 2 1 1 3 5 7 5 2 6 7 3 1 1 2 46 301 6.54
45-49 3 3 2 3 8 4 5 1 1 1 31 167 5.39
50-54 9 3 1 2 3 1 1 2 3 3 28 131 4.68
55-59 3 3 2 1 5 2 3 1 2 22 105 4.77
60-64 4 3 1 2 4 3 1 1 19 91 4.79
65+ 9 9 5 3 8 6 11 6 6 2 3 4 1 73 353 4.75
Total 167 51 22 22 34 33 44 30 35 19 12 14 1 2 1 487 1714 3.52
  • Source: Anthropologists' censuses.
- 398
Comparative Statistics Relating to Fertility, 1956 and 1971
  Atafu   Fakaofo   Nukunonu   Tokelau  
  1956 1971 1956 1971 1956 1971 1956 1971
Number of women aged 15 years and above 167 167 204 211 127 123 498 501
Average number of live births per woman aged 15 years and above. 3.49 3.59 3.66 3.59 3.52 3.31 3.57 3.52
Percentage of female popultn. 15 and above who have never borne a child. 30 30 27 37 32 37 29 34
Percentage of women never married in the female popultn. 15 years and above. 26 29 27 39 23 30 26 33
Masculinity of population aged 15 years and above. 428 443 450 404 488 436 454 425
  • Source: Jupp 1957, and Anthropologists' censuses.

numbers involved are small, which necessitates the use of gross age-groupings in Table 14. The Age-Specific mortality rates have been calculated on the basis of the figures for the 1967 census of the island. Data from the Nukunonu baptismal records have been analysed by our colleague Dr John Stanhope, who reports that they show a life expectancy for females of 62.9 years and for males 62.2 years. 69


Our account thus far has been made in terms of standard demographic categories, relating changes in total population numbers and population structures to various historical events. As such, it has been largely“culture free”; or perhaps more accurately, organised and presented in categories derived from a Western and academic tradition, and not in any way informed by an understanding of peculiarly Tokelauan concepts, motivations and perceptions of population size and changes. In this section we describe something of the broader system of relationships between the populations and certain features of Tokelau culture and social organisa-

- 399
Age-Specific Mortality Rates, Fakaofo, 1964-1970
Age Group Number of Deaths Age—specific Mortality (per 1000)
0-11 months 3 17.1
1-19 years 5 1.8
20-49 years 2 1.5
50-59 years 7 20.0
60 plus years 16 33.6
  • Source: Tinielu MS. 1972, Table II.

tion. As in any such system, the relationships are manifold, subtle and circular in nature.

In Tokelau, as in many other modern Polynesian societies, large gatherings of people connote unity, common purpose and well-being, and they frequently generate, of their own accord, a certain euphoria which spreads through many aspects of community life. Tokelau society involves a relatively large number of formal groups, both voluntary and otherwise, whose members must meet at relatively frequent intervals to organise and decide on matters of common interest. At these meetings, simple non-attendance signifies dissent from the aims and purposes of the group or indicates ill-feeling between the members. Māopoopo, a central concept for the understanding of Tokelau culture, denotes both “being together” physically and “common purpose” or “unity”.

In light of this, it is hardly surprising that many informants in the islands today recall with enthusiasm and pleasure the years when the local village populations reached their peaks—when more communal enterprises could be undertaken, making everyone's individual load lighter, and there appeared to be large attendances at all gatherings. And it is in light of these attitudes that we must understand the Tokelau beliefs and attitudes which relate (either consciously or unconsciously on the part of the people themselves) to the controlling factors of population size—fertility, mortality and migration.

Fertility 70

We have no evidence, from either informants' statements or historical records, for any Tokelau notion that population growth should be controlled by restrictions on the numbers of children conceived, born, or allowed to survive to maturity. It is nevertheless difficult to say with any certainty that none of these ideas was present in the pre-contact era. While is is true that none of the nineteenth century accounts of the islands mentions infanticide or any practice which was consciously intended to depress fertility, most of these accounts date from after 1863 when the population had already been decimated and control of the numbers of children born could hardly have been expected to be an issue. The most that can be said is that if these ideas were present in pre-European times, then - 400 no knowledge of them survived into the twentieth century. Our most elderly informants know nothing of them.

Nevertheless, a number of features of modern Tokelau ideology and social organisation do have a clear influence on fertility. The missions have had a profound effect upon Tokelau culture. Sexual intercourse outside of marriage is widely regarded as a sin, and when it results in conception (the usual means by which it comes to public notice) it is punished by a period of excommunication from the church, and penalties imposed by the village council. Neither of these events is regarded lightly, especially as they may be backed by beatings from parents or injured spouses, and although they do not prevent extra-marital intercourse, they probably do tend to decrease its frequency.

Marriage is monogamous, and is expected to be a lifetime union. Divorce and separation are, in fact, relatively rare (see Table 11), and there are no short-term serial common-law unions such as are found in many other modern Polynesian societies. Furthermore, marriages are public events involving the participation of very large groups of kinsmen, which cannot be successfully undertaken unless there is a measure of approval for them. This fact tends to reinforce many of the public norms concerning marriage. Although males may legally marry at 18 years of age, and females when they are 15, a couple should ideally be considerably older and mature enough to recognise their obligations before they marry. This preference is commonly phrased by informants in economic terms. Both spouses are expected to be able to do well all of the tasks which are demanded of parents and spouses, so that they may be assets rather than liabilities to one another and to the kāiga in which they live. 71

There is no institutionalised celibacy in Tokelau; it is expected that everyone will get married, and most, in fact, do so. Nevertheless, there is in each island a number of women aged 30 years and above who have never married (see Table 11), either because of physical handicaps or because of unbalanced sex ratios due to the selective emigration of males. The fertility of this group of women is somewhat reduced, but it is by no means zero, as is shown in Table 15. In 1971, Fakaofo was the only island to have any males aged 30 or over who had never married.

Number of Women aged 30 years and above who had never married, by numbers of live births. Tokelau, 31 March 1971
Number of Women Number of Live Births
18 0
12 1
5 2
1 3
1 4
37 29
  • Source: Anthropologists' censuses.
- 401

It is regarded as appropriate that widows, and especially those with young children, should remarry, and leviratic marriages are seen as being particularly suitable. Yet not very many women are widowed before they are 45 years of age and have finished bearing children. Of the 62 widows recorded in the 1971 census (see Table 11), only 17 were widowed before they were 45 years old and the fact that none of them has since remarried represents a loss of fertility amounting to only 195 woman years. The unbalanced sex ratios mean that only very few widows ever remarry; but in most cases their children continue to be cared for and fed by their deceased husband's kin.

Although Tokelauans have a definite notion that the postpartum sex taboo should be relatively prolonged, they do not commit themselves with general statements as to just how long it should last. The taboo is not seen as a device for reducing fertility. Rather its aim is to allow a mother to devote her strength to her newborn infant before she is taxed with another pregnancy. It is the well-being and proper nourishment of the newborn child which is seen as being at issue, and not the convenience or the health of the mother, since it is believed that a nursing mother's milk becomes “weak” or “sour” when she becomes pregnant again. Because of this belief, infants are frequently weaned when their mothers become pregnant, and undernourishment is not uncommon among such children. The belief is thus to some extent self-fulfilling. The taboo against sexual intercourse is enforced (in some cases rigidly “policed”) by senior female relatives of the mother. One or more women move into the hospital to sleep beside the mother and help her with the baby, and when she leaves the hospital several weeks later, they keep up the same pattern at home. Exactly how long the ban is maintained depends to some extent on the health of the child, and to some extent on the attitudes of the senior female members of the kāiga. Our elderly informants all agree that the ban was at one time (some 60 or 70 years ago) enforced for between six months and a year; and they are of the opinion that it is now enforced neither so strictly nor for such lengthy periods. Nevertheless, a woman may still be the subject of critical comment (especially from other women) if her daughter should become pregnant again within six or seven months of having given birth. The ideal period between births is stated to be two years.

Many Tokelauans are to some degree aware of modern contraceptive techniques such as sheaths and contraceptive pills, but it is largely hearsay knowledge acquired from those who have spent time in either Samoa or New Zealand. Contraceptives are not available through either the local stores or the hospital and, so far as we know, are not imported privately. The Protestant Church in the islands remains antipathetic to family planning as somehow against the will of God, but the issue has never seriously been raised as a matter for doctrinal decision or pronouncement. The Administration medical staff has disseminated knowledge of the “rhythm method” of birth control to some extent, and although we have no information on the extent to which this is followed, we would guess that it is not at all widespread.

- 402

Abortion is not socially approved. Although a few women are rumoured to know of effective herbal concoctions, these seem to be used only rarely and not a great deal of faith is placed in them. In the sphere of folk medicines and beliefs, more attention is paid to those believed to promote conception than to those whose purpose is to induce foetal mortality.

In general, then, neither Tokelau ideology nor the institutionalised forms of social organisation militate against a reasonably high level of fertility in the populations. Children are valued assets. It is good to have many, but (1) they should (for propriety's sake, and for the well-being of the children themselves) be born in wedlock, and (2) they should be able to be adequately fed and cared for. Many common sayings express the satisfactions and security derived from large numbers of healthy children and these are frequently expressed in the speeches made on public occasions in the atolls. But parents who cannot feed their children adequately are exposed to both ridicule and criticism and, while there is sympathy for those women who have never married, the “proper” Tokelau view remains that it is wrong for them to have children since e hē tatau ona maua te manuia mai te agahala “it is wrong to derive blessings from sin.”


As Pirie 72 has pointed out, the Polynesian atolls were probably very healthy places in the years before European contact. The only diseases which were recorded as being present in Tokelau before 1863 were a kind of skin infection and filariasis—neither of which was directly fatal in its effects. There are neither oral traditions nor written records which suggest that people ever died of starvation, although shortages of food did undoubtedly lead indirectly to deaths when canoes set out in search of food on other islands. There was warfare, but the traditional accounts give only vague impressions of its extent, and we can only surmise the other causes of mortality. We know virtually nothing of pre-European attitudes and practices relating to diseases and to death. Lister, in 1889, was told that “Good and bad fortune and diseases were sent by [the stone god] Tui Tokelau . . . Such people were washed with cocoanut water, some of which had previously been sprinkeld over the stone.” 73

Two opinions very widely held by Tokelau adults at the present day are that there are many fewer really active old men in the population than there were a generation ago, and that many fewer babies die now than was the case in the past. Although we cannot substantiate either opinion, it is likely that both do have some bases in fact. Fifty years ago, the toeaina “old men” of each village had absolute control over community affairs, and they had to lead by example, doing themselves what they directed others to do; they both climbed and fished, providing a positive leadership which informants feel is lacking today. This stimulus, combined with a lesser amount of outside contact (with its risk of infections) may - 403 indeed have served to keep the elderly active even if it did not, in fact, enable them to live longer.

The belief about infant deaths probably has a more substantial basis in fact. In Tokelau, pregnancy and childbirth are very exclusively the affairs of women, and there is a strong prejudice against men providing ordinary obstetrical care. The taboos (which have their origins in conventions of modesty) are relaxed only as a last resort, in the cases of obstetrical emergency. Fiji-trained doctors were appointed to the atolls around the time of the First World War, but only one of these men was still serving in 1926, 74 and it was not until 1946 that he was joined by other doctors from Western Samoa. During this 20-year period there was, then, only one island which had the services of a doctor available at any given time; the other two would have virtually untrained “dressers”, and in all three islands prenatal and obstetrical care was provided by female relatives and local hihiki “midwives” (some of whom were instructed by the doctor). It was not until the appointment of trained staff nurses in the early 1950s that the situation was changed.

According to informants, the main problems encountered were obstructed births, pute mama “bleeding umbilicus” and various unexplained rashes and fevers of babies, known collectively as mūmū. Even today, when these problems have been largely surmounted by trained nurses and more adequate medicines, childbirth is still a period of anxiety calling for close support of the mother by her elder female relatives, and the state of the baby's umbilicus is felt to be a matter for concern and comment. If there is an unusually high mortality rate among infants today, it is not due to any social or cultural factors, but to the relatively unsophisticated nature of the medical care which can be provided.

Local herbal medicines and massage are used fairly widely, but since their use is commonly supplemented by treatment from the hospitals there is probably nothing disadvantageous in their use. Mortality from accidents is not unknown. Tokelauans do manifest some anxiety about them in gatherings associated with any communal enterprise and elders are constantly admonishing people to take care when fishing and climbing. Practically every undertaking which involves young men in any hazard at all is placed under the direction of an older man who is charged with responsibility for the safety of the party as well as the proper performance of the work.

Finally, there are the occasional escape voyages motivated by personal dilemmas or youthful daring. Genealogies attest to the disappearance, and presumed death, of a number of people in the past; but today it is always possible to emigrate.


The idea of permanent emigration, involving a severance of many ties with the home island and of seeking one's fortune elsewhere, is well established in Tokelau life and thought. For the past 70 years or so it appears to have been accepted (perhaps more in Fakaofo and Atafu than - 404 in Nukunonu) that some out of nearly every group of siblings must tāhē “emigrate” simply because the local resources are seen as insufficient. This has not, however, been at any time a matter for village councils to discuss and decide upon. In Tokelau terms, it would be illegitimate for the councils to either decide ideal village population sizes, or to choose those who should emigrate. In the last resort, the decisions are family or individual ones, which are dependent on a complex of circumstances as they affect the family and individual concerned—the land which is available to them, their perception of the opportunities available in Samoa or elsewhere and the links with individuals who might have already established themselves outside the home island. Of these factors, the economic ones are the most pressing, and to understand them it is important to consider the manner in which the kinship system and the system of distribution of rights to land act to distribute rights to economic resources throughout the populations. Being cognatic in principle, Tokelau social organisation in effect presents each individual with a number of bodies of rights to land and allows that individual a certain amount of option as to which of these rights he will activate. In this way, there is a tendancy for a balance to be achieved between the resources available to any kāiga, and the number of people who are actively using their rights to these resources. A kāiga with relatively large resources and few members holding rights to them may have most of the members using these rights; and by contrast a kāiga with relatively slender resources but many members may have a smaller proportion of the members who are actively using these rights. Residential affiliation and marriage also enter into the working of this system, which has many parallels with both internal migration and the market for factors of production in larger Western societies.

Among individuals, there is a wide variation in the amount of rights which they hold. Those who have inadequate resources may expand them by marriage into “rich” kāiga; failing that, the only alternative is emigration.

From our observation and understanding, while the process of departure is felt as harrowing and to be the occasion for emotional scenes, the fact of emigration is ethically and emotionally neutral. Those who go are seen as no better or worse that those who stay, and the fact of their departures as something which simply has to be accepted.

There is a strong sense in which the emigrants are regarded as a part of Tokelau community life, quite apart from the help (in both goods and money) which they frequently send to their immediate kin in their home islands, and the hospitality which they may be called upon to supply to travellers and visitors. They may be asked to provide contributions for church-building or other community projects, and, in general, their help in these undertakings is crucial. But at the present time, there are very few individuals in the atolls who emigrated as young people and returned many years later to retire in their home villages. Many return for brief visits, but it appears to be harder for them to return permanently the longer they are away—and there is no expectation that they should do so. - 405 Various aspects of Tokelau culture and social organisation in fact militate against permanent return. The most serious of these is the respect and authority which are accorded to the aged. A person cannot lead a private life in the islands; each has a position and role in the village. Elders should initiate actions and they should be deferred to, on the grounds that their long experience will lead them to make wise decisions; but a former migrant returning as an old man can know little of local etiquette, genealogy, lands or fishing methods—and indeed all the stuff of day-to-day life in the villages. He would become an anomaly and probably a butt.

While emigration is really nothing drastically new in Tokelau life, it is true that the movement to New Zealand since the mid-1960s is having special and more far-reaching effects on Tokelau cultural and social organisation than the “steady outflow of population on a small scale” 75 which was the characteristic pattern before the mid sixties. We see the special effects as being due to two main features of the new migration: firstly, its scale and, secondly, the fact that the emigrants are for the first time establishing themselves in a relatively urban and industrialised social system.

The scale of the new migration has been most obvious on Nukunonu, which had previously sent few migrants abroad. Before the exodus of 1968 and 1969, when both local and imported foods were in short supply, stringent village restrictions were placed on access to plantations, and fishing canoes returning to the village were regularly inspected to see that they did not bring more than a certain allowable number of coconuts for each crew member. Food distributions within the kāiga were made with strict emphasis on the rights rather than the needs of particular individuals, and precautions were taken to prevent the pilfering of family food resources. Since the end of 1969, all of these village restrictions have been allowed to lapse, and there is little concern about either pilfering or the violation of property boundaries. On the other hand, village enterprises, such as the stevedoring which is done on the regular shipping visits, have become more arduous with the absence of a large proportion of the able-bodied men, and copra production is also more difficult and time consuming than before.

The rising proportion of economically dependent people in the populations has thrown a greater burden on the able-bodied males. There is noticeably less leisure for the men in both Nukunonu and Fakaofo than there was in late 1967 when we began our field studies in the islands. The late afternoon gatherings of men for gossip and games have now almost gone, and the flamboyant cricket competitions which gave Tokelau life periodic excitement and élan lasting a month or more over the Christmas period, are now restricted to a few days. Some kāiga are more depleted of able-bodied men than others, giving rise to inequalities in the amounts of foods like coconuts and fish which are available. And since this runs counter to the traditional ethic, there has been a tendency for the elders to initiate more frequent communal fishing expeditions (with the catches being distributed equally through the whole village population) than was - 406 the case in the past. In turn, this has given rise to dissatisfaction among many of the younger men who see their time and energies diverted from the feeding of their own immediate families.

The fact that recent migrants have gone to New Zealand rather than to Samoa as migrants previously did, has had effects which threaten some of the basic circumstances and axioms of traditional Tokelau culture. These effects arise from the flow of money and new ideas into the island through the mails and the testimony of returning travellers. Money has been known and used in the atolls for at least 100 years, but so long as it was derived mainly from the sale of copra produced on kāiga lands it remained within the Traditional sphere of exchange, being distributed, in fact, very much as coconuts are for food. But the money remitted by emigrants in New Zealand is sent to individuals, usually parents or other close kinsmen, and not to kāiga groups. Consequently, it does not enter into the Traditional sphere of kāiga transactions, but is spent privately on imported foodstuffs and other goods. Some people thus become less dependent on kāiga lands for their basic subsistence, and so less diligent about fulfilling their obligations to other kāiga members. Others become envious and dissatisfied. Nuclear and extended families gain in economic, social and emotional importance at the expense of kāiga. Traditional authority patterns are undermined. A number of individuals have built houses of imported concrete, timber and roofing iron, drawing on no kāiga resouces at all for their construction. Such houses are individual property, and not that of a kāiga. Similarly, fishing catches made from the individually-owned imported boats which are becoming increasingly common are not expected to be distributed in the same way as those made from the kāiga-owned canoes. Fish are occasionally sold, although this is still regarded as unseemly.

Basic ideas and attitudes are also changing as more Tokelauans become better acquainted with New Zealand ways. Elders in the islands can no longer be considered to be the repositories of all useful knowledge. The authority which they hold in village affairs is not openly questioned, but many of their collective decisions are, and elective offices are more commonly being filled by younger men. Similarly, the value and usefulness of collective work are becoming less obvious, and are being called into question also. In short, the recent emigration to New Zealand has accelerated in the Tokelau atolls the whole complex of social changes associated with “Modernisation” which are now widespread throughout the whole of the South Pacific.


The stimulus to write this paper at the present time was provided by an invitation from the Population Institute of the East-West Center to a Conference on Pacific Atoll Populations in December 1972. We are most grateful to Dr Paul Demeny, Director of the Institute, and to Vern Carroll, convener of the conference, for the opportunities to learn from both demographers and the other Pacific ethnographers who were present. - 407 Much of the data which are presented here were gathered during our field studies at various periods over the past five years. We wish to thank most sincerely the elders and people of each of the three Tokelau atolls for their generosity and the genial tolerance which they have unfailingly shown toward us and our work. We are also most grateful for the financial help which we have received from various sources. Hooper's research has been aided by grants from the New Zealand University Grants Committee and The Nuffield Foundation; Huntsman has been financed by grants from the U.S. National Institutes of Health, The Wenner Gren Foundation of New York, and the Society of Sigma Xi. Through our affiliations with the Epidemiology Unit at Wellington Hospital in the Tokelau Islands Migrant Study we have received generous support from the Sutherland Self Help Trust, the J. R. McKenzie Trust, the “Golden Kiwi” Lottery Distribution Committee, and the Medical Research Council of New Zealand. We are deeply indebted to Dr. I. A. M. Prior, Director of the Epidemiology Unit and of the Tokelau Islands Migrant Study. We also wish to thank Dr Peter Pirie, the Department of Maori and Island Affairs and the Tokelau Islands Administration for generous help. We are grateful to Tim Bayliss-Smith, Mike Rynkiewich, Griffith Feeney and Vern Carroll for helpful comments on an earlier draft, and to Norma McArthur and Ian Pool who read through the final manuscript and saved us from some of our grosser demographic naivetes.

  • Abbreviations: AJHR—Appendices to the Journal of the House of Representatives, New Zealand.
  • ATL—Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington.
  • AWPHC—Central Archives of Fiji and the Western Pacific High Commission, Suva, Fiji.
  • LMS—London Missionary Society.
  • NZNA—New Zealand National Archives, Wellingon.
  • ACTING SECRETARY, Administration of Western Samoa, MS. 1937. Memorandum for The Secretary, Department of External Affairs, dated August 20, 1937, NZNA.
  • AJHR, 1926 and 1948-72. Wellington, Government Printer.
  • ALLEN, Stephen Shepherd, MS. 1929. Memorandum for Minister for External Affairs, dated August 22, 1929, NZNA.
  • BIRD, P. Gould, MS. 1863. Letter dated May 29, 1863, LMS South Seas Letters, Microfilm ATL.
  • BOHANNAN, Paul, 1955. “Some Principles of Exchange and Investment among the Tiv.” American Anthropologist, 57:60-70.
  • BURROWS, William, 1923. “Some Notes and Legends of a South Sea Island.” Journal of the Polynesian Society, 32:143-73.
  • CENSUS AND STATISTICS DEPARTMENT, 1947. Population Census, 1945. Volume II, Island Territories. Wellington.
  • CHURCHWARD, W. B., MS. 1884. Letter to the High Commissioner for the Western Pacific, dated July 8, 1884, AWPHC.
  • CROCKER, Stephen R., MS. nd. Journal of the “General Jackson”, 1836-9, Nicholson Collection, Providence Public Library.
- 408
  • CUSACK-SMITH, T. B., MS. 1892. Fakaofo: Report on Disputed Land Claims of Jose Pereira, AWPHC.
  • —— MS. 1896. Report of Visit to Manua and the Union Islands, AWPHC.
  • —— MS. 1897. Report of the Deputy Commissioner's Visit to Tokelau (Union Group), dated July 9, 1897, AWPHC.
  • DANA, James Dwight, MS. nd. Notebooks, Bieneke Library, New Haven.
  • DAVIDSON, J. W., 1967. Samoa mo Samoa: The Emergence of the Independent State of Western Samoa. Melbourne, Oxford University Press.
  • DAVIES, S. H., MS. 1882. Report of a Voyage made in “John Williams” to Outstations of Samoan Mission in the Tokelau, Ellice and Gilbert Groups during August, September and October, 1882. LMS South Seas Journals. Microfilm ATL.
  • DAVIS, Kingsley and Judith BLAKE, 1956. “Social Structure and Fertility: An Analytical Framework.” Economic Development and Cultural Change, 4:211-35.
  • DEPARTMENT OF STATISTICS, MS. nd. Census of the Tokelau Islands, 25 September 1961. Wellington.
  • —— MS. nd. Census of the Tokelau Islands, 24 September, 1966. Wellington.
  • DIDIER, E., 1885. “Le P. Didier au R. P. Procureur des Mission, 24 septembre 1884.” Annales des Missions de L'Océanie, 5:509-17. [This volume of Annales is entitled Annales des Missions de la Société de Marie.]
  • —— 1886. “Lettre du P. Didier au R. P. Assistant pour les Missions. 10 décembre 1885.” Annales des Missions de L'Océanie, 6:189-97.
  • DOLÉ, E., 1885. “Lettre . . . au R. P. Procureur des Missions de la Société de Marie. Apia, le 10 juillet 1882.” Annales des Missions de L'Océanie, 5:392-402. [This volume of Annales is entitled Annales des Missions de la Société de Marie.]
  • EDWARDS, E. and G. HAMILTON, 1915. Voyage of H.M.S.Pandora” . . . with introduction and notes by Basil Thomson. London, Edwards.
  • ELLA, Samuel, MS. 1861. Letter dated November 27, 1861, LMS South Seas Letters. Microfilm ATL.
  • ELLOY, Monseigneur, 1879. “Rapport de . . . à MM. les Membres des Conseils centreaux de l'Oeuvr de la Progagation de la Foi. III. Iles de Tokelau.” Annales de la Progagation de la Foi, 51:70-76.
  • GALLAGHER, Robert E. (ed.), 1964. Byron's Journal of his Circumnavigation 1764-1766. London, The Hakluyt Society.
  • GILL, George and P. Gould BIRD, MS. 1863. Journal of Third Missionary Voyage to the Tokelau or Union group of Islands, January 1863, LMS South Seas Journals. Microfilm ATL.
  • GILL, William Wyatt, MS. 1863. Letter to LMS dated March 18, 1863, LMS South Seas Journals. Microfilm ATL.
  • GOLDSMITH, Michael, MS. 1972. Tokelau Population in Western Samoa. University of Auckland.
  • GRATTAN, F. J. H., MS. 1944. Visit to Tokelau per “New Golden Hind”, dated November 13, 1944, NZNA.
  • HALE, Horatio, 1846. United States Exploring Expedition . . . Ethnography and Philology. Philadelphia, Lee and Blanchard.
  • HARRISON, A. G., MS. 1973. Rat Damage to Coconuts on Nukunonu Atoll, Tokelau Islands . . ., Paper presented at Second Regional Conference of Directors of Agriculture and Livestock Production, South Pacific Commission, Noumea.
  • HENRY, George, MS. 1863. Letter dated March 20, 1863, enclosing letter from
- 409
  • Maka, teacher on Atafu, dated February 16, 1863, LMS South Seas Letters. Microfilm ATL.
  • HOOPER, Antony, 1969. “Land Tenure in the Tokelau Islands.” Working paper No. 11 distributed at South Pacific Commission Symposium on Land Tenure in Relation to Economic Development, Suva.
  • HUNTER, Hamilton, MS. 1900. Visit to Tokelau Islands of Deputy Commissioner in H.M.S. “Pylades”, August 1900. AWPHC.
  • — 1904a. Letter to High Commissioner for the Western Pacific. AWPHC.
  • —— 1904b. Report of a Visit to the Union Group, July 1904. AWPHC.
  • HUNTSMAN, Judith W., 1971. “Concepts of Kinship and Categories of Kinsmen in the Tokelau Islands.” The Journal of the Polynesian Society, 80:317-54.
  • JESSOP, R. H., MS. nd. Report on Voyage to Tokelaus per Schooner “Tagua” 1 to 8 December 1946. NZNA.
  • JUPP, Kathleen, MS. 1957. Census of the Tokelau Islands, 25 September, 1956. Department of Island Affairs, Wellington.
  • LISTER, J. J., 1892. “Notes on the Natives of Fakaofu (Bowditch Island) Union Group.” Journal of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, 21:43-63.
  • MACDERMOT, Roderick, MS. 1910. General Report, Union Group, December 1, 1910. AWPHC.
  • MACGREGOR, Gordon, 1937. Ethnology of Tokelau Islands. Honolulu, Bernice P. Bishop Museum Bulletin 146.
  • MARRIOTT, John, MS. 1883. Journal of a Visit to the Tokelau, Ellice and Gilbert Groups in the “John Williams” in Aug., Sept. And Oct. 1883, LMS South Seas Journals. Microfilm ATL.
  • —— MS. 1887. Report of Voyage to the Tokelau, Ellice and Gilbert Islands, September 1 to November 4, 1887. LMS South Seas Journals. Microfilm ATL.
  • —— 1895. Report of the first Voyage to the Tokelau, Ellice and Gilbert Islands, June 4 to July 18, 1895 of the s.s. “John Williams”, LMS South Seas Journals. Microfilm ATL.
  • MAUDE, H. E., 1961. “Post-Spanish Discoveries in the Central Pacific.” Journal of the Polynesian Society, 70:67-111.
  • MAXSE, Ernest E. B., MS. 1898. Report on Tour of Tokelau Group, dated. June 25, 1898, AWPHC.
  • MCKAY, C., MS. 1937. Report of official Visit to Tokelau Islands, 1937, NZNA.
  • —— MS. 1939. Report on Visit to Tokelau Islands, September 1939, NZNA.
  • —— MS. 1940. Memorandum for the Secretary to the Administration, dated November 9, 1940. NZNA.
  • —— MS. 1941. Report on Visit to Tokelau Islands, May 1941, NZNA.
  • —— MS. 1942. Memorandum for the Secretary to the Administration, dated July 21, 1942, NZNA.
  • —— MS. 1943. Memorandum for the Secretary to the Administration, dated April 19, 1943, NZNA.
  • MONFAT, Father A., 1890. Les îles Samoa, ou archipel des Navigateurs. Étude historique et religieuse. Lyon, E. Vitte.
  • MORRELL, W. P., 1960. Britain in the Pacific Islands. Oxford, Clarendon Press
  • MURRAY, A. W., MS. 1868. Report of a Visit to the Outstations of the Samoan Mission in the Tokelau Group in the month of August 1868, LMS South Seas Letters. Microfilm ATL.
  • NEWELL, J. E., 1895. “Notes, Chiefly Ethnological, on the Tokelau, Ellice and Gilbert Islanders.” Australasian Association for the Advancement of Science, 6:603-12.
- 410
  • —— MS. 1896. Visit to N.W. Out-Stations in the “John Williams”, LMS South Seas Journals. Microfilm ATL.
  • Pacific Islands Monthly, 1966. “N.Z. Plan to Resettle Tokelauans.” February Issue: 17.
  • PESNEAU, A., 1903. “Lettre du P. Pesneau au R. P. Procureur des Missions, le 28 mai 1903.” Annales de Missions de L'Océanie, 11:165-172.
  • PHILLIPS, Charles, MS. 1881. Journal of a Voyage to the Tokelau, Ellice and Gilbert Islands During the Months of Sept., October and November 1881, LMS South Seas Journals. Microfilm ATL.
  • —— MS. 1884. Report of Voyage to the North West Outstations of the Samoan Mission from July 8th to Sept. 15th 1884, LMS South Seas Journals. Microfilm ATL.
  • POUPINEL, V., 1882. “Au Réverend Père Mayet. En mer, le 23 décembre 1861.” Annales des Missions de L'Océanie 2:160-174. [This volume of Annales is entitled Annales des Missions de la Société de Marie.]
  • POWELL, T., MS. 1871. Report of a Visit, in the “John Williams”, to the Tokelau, Ellice and Gilbert Groups . . ., LMS South Seas Journals, Microfilm ATL.
  • RASPE, Pamela D., MS. 1972. Analysis of the Breeding Structure of a Polynesian Isolate. MA Thesis, University of Auckland.
  • REYNOLDS, Jeremiah N., 1835. Letter to Secretary of the Navy, dated September 24, 1828. In United States Congress, 23rd Congress, House of Representatives Document No. 105.
  • REYNOLDS, William, MS. n.d. Journal on Board the Vincennes . . ., Franklin and Marshall Library, Lancaster.
  • RICHARDSON, George, MS. 1925. Letter to New Zealand Minister of External Affairs, dated October 21, 1925, NZNA.
  • RITCHIE, Russell T., MS. 1927. Report on Trip to the Tokelau Islands. August 20th-25th 1927, NZNA.
  • STALLWORTHY, G. MS. 1858. Letter to London Missionary Society, LMS South Seas Letters, Microfilm ATL. (Enclosed in letter from Chisholm on Raiatea).
  • STALLWORTHY, G. and Geo. GILL, 1859. “Ethnology of Polynesia-XVIII.” The Samoan Reporter Number 20, January.
  • SWINBOURNE, Charles A., MS. 1925. General Report on Visit of Inspection to the Union Group, July 1925. NZNA.
  • TINIELU, Iona, MS. 1972. The Tokelau Island Medical Service; an Historical Review. Prepared for Department of Health, Wellington.
  • TOKELAU ISLANDS AMENDMENT ACT 1967, No. 38, Wellington, Government Printer.
  • TURNER, George, MS. 1876. Missionary Voyage in the “John Williams” to the Tokelau, Ellice and Gilbert Islands, May and June 1876, LMS South Seas Journals, Microfilm ATL.
  • —— MS. 1878. Report of a Missionary Voyage through the Tokelau, Ellice and Gilbert Groups, in the “John Williams”, during 1878, LMS South Seas Journals. Microfilm ATL.
  • VIVIAN, J. C., MS. 1871. Voyage in the “John Williams” from Tahiti to Sydney calling at numerous Islands en route, LMS South Seas Journals. Microfilm ATL.
  • WARD, R. Gerard, 1967. American Activities in the Central Pacific. II: 304 (Reprint of report in New Bedford Mercury, Oct. 23, 1835.)
  • WATSON, J. A., MS. 1922. Letter dated June 15, 1922. AWPHC.
  • WHITTLE, John S. MS. n.d. Journal as Surgeon of the “Vincennes” and “Peacock” 1838-1841, University of Virginia Library, Charlottesville.
- 411
  • WILKES, Charles, MS. 1841. Letter to Hon. Secretary of the Navy, dated October 31st, Navy Dept. R.G. 45, National Archives, Washington.
  • — 1845. Narrative of the United States Exploring Expedition during the Years 1838, 1839, 1840, 1841, 1842. Volume V. London, Wiley and Putnam.
  • WODZICKI, Kazimierz, 1968. An Ecological Survey of Rats and other Vertebrates of the Tokelau Islands. Wellington, Government Printer.
  • YANKEE [pseudonym], 1835. “D'Wolf Island”. Bristol Gazette and Family Companion, Vol. III, No. 11.
1   Since the late 1960s a number of families have lived on a permanent basis in a new village area on an islet about a mile away.
2   AJHR 1926:A.-4D.
3   Richardson's report (1925) on the islands gave inconsistent figures for the areas of the three atolls. While the text reports acreages of the islands as Atafu 550, Fakaofo 650 and Nukunonu 1350, the map captions state that Atafu is approximately 603 acres, Fakaofo approximately 700 acres and Nukunonu approximately 1372 acres. When official Annual Reports on the Tokelaus began to be published in 1948, the areas were given as being approximations only - Atafu 500 acres, Fakaofo 650, Nukunonu 1350. The 1950 Annual Report, and all subsequent ones, have given these same figures, but with no indication that they are approximations.
It is likely that these publications overestimate the area of Nukunonu. Indications of the error are given by simple inspection of the only official map which shows all all three islands at the same scale (NZMS 254m 1st Ed. 1969), and by a count of coconut palms which was made on each island in 1971. This count showed that Nukunonu had approximately 70,000 palms, Fakaofo 65,000 and Atafu 53,000 and there is nothing to suggest that the figures (however crude) reflect anything but the ratio of the land areas of the atolls. Harrison (1973:1) reports the area of Nukunonu as “about 265 hectares (650 acres)”.
His calculation is based on a total palm count of 70,000 for the atoll and a figure of 263.4 mature palms per hectare (106.0 per acre) which he established on the basis of 20 representative quadrats containing 1000 trees. Using Harrison's figures for average palm density we arrive at figures of 502 acres for Atafu and 612 acres for Fakaofo. Since these areas seem to correspond more closely with the map, we accept them as approximations which probably reflect more accurately the relative sizes of the atolls than the figures which are given in the Annual Reports.
4   Botanical information is summarised from Wodzicki 1968 which provides a much more complete description.
5   Tokelau Islands Amendment Act 1967:13.
6   Huntsman (1971) describes these groups in greater detail. Hooper (1969) describes the customary land tenure.
7   The distinction between different “spheres” of exchange is derived from Bohannan (1955).
8   Newell 1895.
9   Burrows 1923.
10   Powell MS. 1871.
11   MacGregor 1937:17.
12   Ibid, 26.
13   Gallagher 1964:108-9.
14   Edwards and Hamilton 1915:45-6, 127-8.
15   Reynolds 1835:20.
16   Gallagher 1964:108-9.
17   Edwards and Hamilton 1915:47.
18   “Yankee” 1835.
19   Ward 1967:305.
20   Crocker MS. n.d.: entry for Jan. 29, 1841.
21   Maude 1961:102
22   Hale 1846:150.
23   Dana MS. n.d.
24   Reynolds MS. n.d.: entry for Jan. 25, 1841.
25   Wilkes 1845:8.
26   Ibid.
27   Hale 1846:157.
28   Ibid, 158.
29   Ibid, 160.
30   Reynolds MS. n.d.: entry for Jan. 29, 1841.
31   Whittle MS. n.d.: entry for Jan. 30, 1841. Whittle was not on shore at Fakaofo.
32   Wilkes MS. 1841.
33   Wilkes 1845:17.
34   Unless otherwise indicated, our account of the Roman Catholic Mission in the atolls is based on Monfat 1890.
35   Stallworthy MS. 1858. This represents a very considerable jump from the 90 who were left on the island in 1852, and the rise cannot be satisfactorily explained. Some people may have returned to Fakaofo from Uvea, or from either Nukunonu or Atafu.
36   Poupinel 1882:167.
37   Ella MS. 1861.
38   Gill and Bird MS. 1863.
39   Although Olosega is not now part of the Tokelau Islands, it has over the past 100 years or more had Tokelauans living there as migrant labourers, and it has played an important role in the demographic history of Atafu and Fakaofo. According to tradition, Olosega was known and used by Tokelauans before European contact, with parties of Tokelauans resident on the island from time to time. The U.S. Exploring Expedition found it to be uninhabited in 1841 (Wilkes 1845:18). Both Tokelau manuscript sources and records of the Marist Mission record that the island was occupied by a Frenchman and an American (either jointly or one following the other) during the 1840s or 1850s, and worked as a copra plantation. Four men and four women were taken from Fakaofo during this period, and must have been on Olosega when the slave traders arrived at the other three atolls. They later returned to Fakaofo, and four of the major genealogies of Fakaofo trace from these four couples.
40   Gill and Bird MS. 1863.
41   Dolé 1885. Tyrel had continuing contact with the Tokelaus. He was probably the French sailor who desecrated Tui Tokelau in 1852 and later established himself on Olosega, fathering two part-Tokelau children.
42   Bird MS. 1863.
43   Ibid.
44   Ibid.
45   Henry MS. 1863.
46   After leaving Tokelau, one of the slavers put in to Tutuila for water. Local Samoans learned that slaves were aboard and threatened the ship, inducing the captain to release six Fakaofo men. Three of these six were ill with dysentery and died in Tutuila, but the three survivors were in Upolu in May 1863 (Bird 1863) and later reached their home island. One of these men, the “King” of the island fathered numerous offspring by five different Fakaofo women, and the other two also had numerous children.
47   MacDermot MS. 1910.
48   Gill MS. 1863.
49   Churchward MS. 1884.
50   Cusack-Smith MS. 1892.
51   Raspe MS. 1973 is a preliminary analysis of Atafu as a “breeding isolate”.
52   The protectorates were declared in order to establish British claims to the islands in case they should prove of use as staging points for a trans-Pacific cable which had been proposed at the Colonial Conference in 1887. The most likely cable bases were held to lie in the Phoenix group, and the Tokelau Protectorates were declared en passant) in the course of a voyage to annex the Phoenix Islands. See Morrell 1960:265.
53   Lister 1892:44.
54   Tinielu MS. 1972:9.
55   Watson MS. 1922.
56   Hunter MS. 1902, 1904b.
57   MacDermot MS. 1910. It was a somewhat erratic effort, recording population figures for Nukunonu in March, for Fakaofo in June and for Atafu in November of 1910. It gives what appear to be de facto populations of the three islands at these dates, broken down into categories of “men”, “women”, “boys”, and “girls”, and also the total numbers from each individual island who were absent in other places, including the other Tokelau atolls. Since it appears likely that the totals given for each island would include those people who were “visiting” from the other two islands, we have aggregated the three de facto island populations to produce the “total Tokelau” figure of 899.
58   AJHR 1926:A.-4D:8.
59   Ibid.
60   Jupp MS. 1957.
61   Ibid.
62   Goldsmith MS. 1972.
63   AJHR 1964:A.-3.
64   AJHR 1964, 1965, 1966:A.-3.
65   AJHR 1968:A.-3.
66   Pacific Islands Monthly 1966.
67   Goldsmith MS. 1972.
68   Davidson 1967:255.
69   Dr Stanhope informs us that he used the following techniques to arrive at these figures: “Using survivorship data, the proportion surviving to age x was determined for each sex, pooling adjacent age groups so as to obtain values of x=5, 10, 15 . . . to 65. The proportions obtained were then compared with model life tables to calculate estimates of mortality levels. The median mortality level was then derived for each sex, and the life expectation at birth calculated from the appropriate models.” Ref. “Methods of estimating basic demographic measures from incomplete data.” United Nations Population Studies No. 42, United Nations, New York, 1967.
70   Our account owes much to the discussion of this topic by Davis and Blake 1956.
71   An elderly informant recalls the shame which she felt when, shortly after her marriage at 19, she sought advice on hat-making from an old woman and was told mua te kope, kae muli te avaga! “first learn to make things and only then get married!”
72   In a paper delivered at the Atoll Populations Conference, Honolulu, 1972.
73   Lister 1892:50.
74   AJHR 1926: A.-4D:9.
75   Census and Statistics Department 1947:12.