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Ethnology of Tokelau Islands

Present Government

Present Government

In 1877 the Tokelau Islands were nominally included under the protection of Great Britain by an Order in Council which claimed jurisdiction over all islands of the Pacific not previously ceded or claimed by other powers. In 1889 Commander Oldham on H.M.S Egeria landed at each of the three northern atolls and officially raised the Union Jack, declaring the group under the protectorate of Great Britain. In 1916 the Tokelau Islands, called officially the Union Islands, were incorporated into the Colony of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands. In 1925 the Union Islands were transferred to the Administration of Western Samoa, a New Zealand mandate. This was most acceptable to the natives who feel they have some bonds of kindship with Samoa and regard her with affection as the source of their missionaries. At this time Swains Island, Olosenga, was placed by request of the Jennings family under the jurisdiction of American Samoa.

At present all government is administered by native officials. Each island has a magistrate (faipule) who combines the duties of judge and head of the village council, a mayor (pulenu'u), a chief of police and one or two policemen (leoleo), all of whom are appointed and paid by the administration at Samoa. Annually a member of the Native Office in Samoa visits the islands to judge cases outside the jurisdiction of the native official and to settle any local difficulties.

Each village has a native council (fono) of men who determine all matters of village government and policy. The women have a committee, presided over by the pastor's wife, which inspects daily the sanitation of the houses and the health of the small children.

One native medical practitioner is the health officer for all the islands, though each village has a dresser and a nurse to do the superficial medical work. At Atafu there is a hospital to which the serious cases of sickness are sent from all the islands.

Fakaofu has a wireless station operated by a native boy who communicates daily with Apia, Samoa.