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Ethnology of Tokelau Islands



At the first signs of puberty young boys put on a plaited leaf breechcloth (malo); young girls wore the thick pandanus leaf skirt (titi). The boys left their homes where their sisters and female cousins slept and lived in the men's houses (fale pa).

In former times the village contained several men's houses. All the unmarried male members of a family belonged to one house, which was used as a clubhouse as well as for sleeping quarters. Here men spent their leisure time talking or performing the lighter crafts, such as making fishhooks or twisting fiber into cord and rope.

While living in the men's houses the education of the boys was completed. They went as crew in the canoes on fishing excursions or across the lagoon to the plantations of coconut and pandanus on the windward islets to gather food. They prepared ovens and built fires and did much of the cooking and serving for the men in the house. They learned to make all the implements used in fishing, and the sons or nephews of a carpenter (tofunga) often learned from him to build houses or canoes. After work the boys sat about and listened to the tales of the older men.