Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

An Introduction to Polynesian Anthropology



The Tokelau, or Union Islands, comprise four atolls: Atafu (Duke of York), Nukunono (Duke of Clarence), Fakaofu (Bowditch), and Olosega (Swains Island). They lie in general northwest-southeast line between latitude 8° and 11' S. and longitude 171° and 173° W. Atafu is the most northerly and Olosega the most southerly.

Olosega was one of the islands discovered by Quiros, who sighted it on March 1, 1606, and named it la Peregrine He went ashore and recorded quite a good description of the people, whom he numbered at 500. Espinosa named the island Gente Hermosa from the beauty of the inhabitants. For some unknown reason, the local population seems to have disappeared or migrated, for since the occupation of the island by the Jennings family in 1856, the inhabitants seem to have been recruited mostly from Atafu and Fakaofu. A long period elapsed before the other three atolls were discovered, the next atoll being Atafu on June 24, 1765, by Byron (1764-1766), who named it Duke of York Island. Nukunono was next, in 1791, when it was discovered by Captain Edwards (1790-1791) in the Pandora. He evidently followed Byron's idea of nomenclature, naming the atoll Duke of Clarence Island. Fakaofu was not discovered until long after, when Captain Hudson of the Wilkes Expedition (1838-1842) found it and, with more democratic tastes, named it Bowditch Island.

In addition to the journals of the early voyagers, Horatio Hale, a member of the Wilkes Expedition, made a valuable contribution on this and other page 103groups in his work on the ethnography and philology of the expedition. Little was contributed by other writers and such as there was has been incorporated by Macgregor in his work.

Gordon Macgregor visited the group in 1932 on a Bishop Museum Fellowship. His work on the ethnology of the group covered social organization, religion, and material culture.

Literature on the Tokelau Islands

Early Voyagers
  • Byron (1764-1766)
  • Edwards (1790-1791)
  • Quiros (1605-1606)
  • Wilkes (1838-1842)
Other Writers

Burrows, William, Some notes and legends of a south sea island [Fakaofu]: Polynesian Soc., Jour., vol. 32, pp. 143-173, 1923.

Hale, Horatio, Ethnography and philology, U. S. Exploring Expedition, Narrative, vol. 6, Philadelphia, 1846.

Lister, J. J., Notes on the natives of Fakaofu (Bowditch Island) Union Group: Royal Anthrop. Inst.Great Britain and Ireland, Jour., vol. 22, pp. 43-63, 1891.

Smith, S. Percy, A note on the Tokelau or Union Group: Polynesian Soc., Jour., vol. 31, pp. 91-93, 1922.

Bishop Museum Publication

Macgregor, Gordon, Ethnology of Tokelau, Bull. 146, 1937.