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Ethnology of Tokelau Islands



All male members of society were circumcised, sometimes at puberty, but usually five or six years later. When the village council decided that there were enough uncircumcised boys for a group operation, the operator (to-funga), Te Nifo (the Tooth, because he operated with a shark's tooth), was ordered to confine them in a single house for the operation. The operation, which was, strictly speaking, superincision, was performed by pulling the foreskin forward and raising it on to a small, flat stick. A longitudinal slit was then made with a shark's tooth. Nothing was applied to aid the healing or to cover the incision.

The boys were forced to remain in the house until they were well healed. It was tapu to leave even for food. The sons of their father's sisters (ilamutu) accompanied the operator each day to bring food which consisted solely of coconuts in the niumata stage. Fish was tapu.

When the healing was completed the families of the boys gave a feast of announcement (te kainga o te katala faele). At this time the boys repaid their cousins with gifts for the supply of food which they had brought.

A woman considered an uncircumcised man unfit to marry.

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