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Tokelauan Way

Faka Tokelau means the “Tokelauan Way”.  


The traditional way of life and community remains mostly unchanged in Tokelau because of our geographical isolation. Faka-Tokelau, the Tokelauan way of life, is centred on family and community. There is a complex social and economic order based on the values of community and sharing which remains strong despite the pressure of external influences.


A way of life that Tokelau communities emulate even today in Aotearoa-New Zealand and elsewhere in the world. The core values and principles of the Atafu Tokelau Community Group reflect the Tokelauan Way.

Core Values: Fakaaloalo – respect, dignity; Alofa – love and compassion; Ola faka-te-agaga – spiritual beliefs; Tautua – service and support to others

Guiding Principles​: Alofa ki te tama manu – compassion towards the most vulnerable in the community; Taofi ke mau ki na kupu a na tupuna – holdfast to the words of elders; Fai nuku – active patriotism; Loto mau – steadfast and perseverance; Loto nuku – patriotism to your village/nation; Loto tahi – of one heart and in unity; Loto fealofani – a harmonious and peaceful heart; Inati – principle of collective responsibility and sharing.

The strength of community, its system of sharing and great respect for elders is evident in Tokelau communities throughout the world.

​To some extent the people of Tokelau retain cultural ties with Samoa but there are also strong links with Tuvalu where the culture is distinctly moulded by the atoll environment.  There are linguistic and family ties with both countries.  Village affairs are conducted by a council of elders consisting of representatives of the families.​

Also see videos below of how Tokelau has become the first fully solar-powered territory in the world.

Source: Some of this material is from Government of Tokelau 


The Atafu Tokelau Community Group does not claim copyright to the videos featured here.  Videos from YouTube have been embedded on the basis that there are no copyright issues given the embedding function is available or no specific mention of copyright/permissions required in the video description.


​Photo: Taken at Pukemokimoki Marae in Napier 2019 during Atafu Youth Leadership Weekend.

Ko te pa (2016)

"The pa (pearl shell lure pendant) is a very special item in the Tokelau culture ... if a person is seen wearing a pa others will know that the person is Tokelauan or has Tokelauan connections.​"

In celebration of Tokelau Language Week (24 Oct – 30 Oct 2016) Luti Mekisa Fakaalofa selected three pa from the Auckland Museum collection to go on display. She then wrote both the English and Tokelau language labels.


Listen to Luti read her story in the Gagana Tokelau.

See images of pa and read both the Tokelau and English language labels at this link…-lure-pendant

Vaka (2019)

VAKA is a short documentary about the energy and resilience of the Tokelauan people as they weave their customary-wisdom regarding the environment with modern eco-technologies to respond to climate change. Tokelau was the first nation to aim for 100% of its electricity to be generated from solar as a result of the New Zealand funded Tokelau Renewable Energy Project in 2012.  The doco was supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.


In Tokelau, the people of Atafu live in one village which occupies part of a motu (reef-bound islet). On Nukunonu the village occupies about half of one motu which is connected by a bridge to a neighbouring motu where some families have settled. The village on Fakaofo is on a small but comparatively high motu. It is overcrowded although emigration to New Zealand alleviates the problem.


Fakaofo has a second more recently established village, Fenuafala, on a larger nearby motu where the school, the hospital and other facilities are now located.


A government subsidised housing programme operates on all three atolls. The scheme, which encourages the use of imported building materials, is very popular and the number of houses constructed out of traditional materials is diminishing.

Tokelauans are citizens of New Zealand which gives us free right of access to that country.


In the 1960s and early 1970s the New Zealand Government operated the Tokelauan Resettlement Scheme to overcome crowding on the atolls. Many families migrated to New Zealand and later sponsored others who wanted to emigrate. The scheme was suspended in 1976 when the population stabilised.


Currently some 8000 Tokelauans live in New Zealand; other small communities can be found in Samoa, American Samoa, Australia and Hawai'i.

Sports popular in Western Samoa and New Zealand , cricket and football for example, are also popular in Tokelau. The subsistence lifestyle means that activities regarded as recreation in more developed countries - fishing and gardening - are undertaken more through necessity than choice.

Liquor is available in relatively limited quantities, although the Tokelauans have a fondness for beer, which may be purchased in bulk from Samoa through the cooperative stores on Fakaofo and Nukunonu and Atafu.

Public holidays are New Years Day, Waitangi Day (6 February), Good Friday, Easter Monday, ANZAC Day, Queen's Birthday, Labour Day, Tokehega Day, Christmas Day and two other village holidays nominated annually by the three island councils.

Tokelauan is the main language used in Tokelau, then Samoan, English and Tuvaluan. English is taught as a second language and is widely understood.

Source: Government of Tokelau


PGNL9085-9th General Fono Session of Tokelau's 9th Government. Photo Tokelau National Medi

The Administrator of Tokelau, who is a New Zealand Government official, is responsible for the executive government of Tokelau (refer Administrator's page). The exercise of this power is subject to the control of the New Zealand Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade who holds the final say in major decisions where the New Zealand Government is responsible for Tokelau - such as the approval of the annual budget presented to General Fono (National Assembly).

Nuku-based and national government

Administrative and legislative powers of the Administrator of Tokelau are formally delegated to the three Taupulega (Village Council of Elders) of Tokelau as the highest authority. Authority for national issues is re-delegated to the General Fono to deal with issues beyond those properly undertaken by each village alone. Consistent with this power structure is a devolution of most public service delivery to the villages. In each village a General Manager along with other staff members, including teachers and medical staff, support each Taupulega in their government functions. National-level administration is primarily done by the national public service, most of which is based in Apia.

The General Fono consists of the Faipule (village leader) and Pulenuku (village mayor) of each village along with one delegate for every 100 inhabitants of that village, based on the latest available population count rounded to the nearest 100 inhabitants. There are currently 20 members. Eight ministerial portfolios are held by the six members of the Council for the Ongoing Government for a period of three years.

The Council carries out executive business when the General Fono is not in session, and is required to report back to the General Fono. Council members include the three Faipule and one General Fono delegate from each village who is designated by the Taupulega. The Council is chaired by the Ulu o Tokelau (titular head) whose term is for one year and, on a rotating basis, is the Faipule from Atafu, Nukunonu or Fakaofo.

Source: Government of Tokelau

Photo Caption: General Fono delegates at the sitting of Tokelau’s 9th Government, November 2019 Tokelau Media Unit.

Carving Family History (2011)

Traditional methods of making tools are often lost in the modern age; find out how Kupa and Jack, brothers from Tokelau, have kept alive their grandfather's legacy by learning how to make adzes. TALES FROM TE PAPA is a fascinating new series of mini-documentaries for TVNZ 7 that showcase many of the exciting, wonderful and significant pieces that are held in our national museum. Tales from Te Papa is commissioned by TVNZ 7, in partnership with Te Papa.

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