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Ethnology of Tokelau Islands

Position in Polynesia

Position in Polynesia

The Tokelau Islands lie in the northwest corner of Polynesia on the border between this culture area and Micronesia. Together with the Ellice Islands, they form stepping stones between the Gilbert Islands of Micronesia and Samoa, the great group of northwestern Polynesia. (See fig. 1.) Therefore they are interesting for the possibilities of revealing remnants of the cul- page 5 ture of peoples moving through them. The Tokelau Islands are situated east of the main line of migration but, with the Phoenix Islands to the north, form a second route beginning east of the Gilbert Islands and running directly south to Samoa. The southerly direction of current and wind in the summer is favorable, though dangerous, to such migrations passing through the Tokelau Islands.

The prevailing southeasterly winds during the winter months are favorable for western migrations. The Tokelau Islands lie to the windward of the northern Cook Islands and may have been discovered and influenced by drift voyagers from these islands of central Polynesia. Many place names in Tokelau, such as Rapa and Pukapuka, suggest such eastern influence.