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Ethnology of Tokelau Islands

Organization of Atafu kindred

Organization of Atafu kindred

The development of kindred groups from the division of lands at Atafu during its short history of five generations illustrates the formation and organization of the Tokelau kindred. The Atafu community, established by Tonuia and his family with a few followers from Fakaofu, was originally composed of his five married sons, Pio, Malokie, Laufati, Vaovela, and Taua; his two daughters, Fekei and Levao; Fekei's husband, Faunga, and Levao's husband, Nofoloa; and five others, Folosanga and his two sons, Fuati and Folosanga; and Pepe and Fakavanga, brothers of Laufali's wife. Tonuia was chief and priest of the community by appointment of the high chief at Fakaofu, but he was also head authority by right, as the eldest man of the kinship group, which, except for three members, comprised the entire community.

Before Tonuia's death he divided the land among his sons and daughters. Each of them had an individual household whose membership was increased by the marriage of children with people brought from Nukunono and Fakaofu. With increasing size and separate land rights, each household became more self-sufficient and occupied with its own existence, although still belonging in the kindred.

Tonuia's children redivided among their children the shares of land they had received in the original division. Some of Tonuia's grandchildren lived in the original households, and others established new homes. Except in one line, where the land division was inherited in the second generation by one person who redivided it again, the complete subdivision of the land among individual owners ended with the generation of Tonuia's grandchildren. Since then the descendants of each grandchild have inherited and owned these divisions in common, the individual receiving the right to use his kindred's land.

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The mode of inheritance by these later generations has been very irregular. In some families a right to the use of a share of the land was given to each child of the next generation. In other families the whole was passed on to the eldest son or a daughter, who allotted subdivisions to the brothers and sisters. In all families, the eldest son has directed the use of the land. When two people, both descended from Atafu families, marry, they and their descendants have a claim to the use of the land of both kindreds. However, they usually use the land of only one kindred and succeeding generations drop the secondary kinship. From Tonuia's original kindred there developed secondary kindreds of his children, split into still other kindreds by his grandchildren. The subdividing ended with the cessation of distributing the land among individuals.