Ethnology of Tokelau Islands
Membership in the village council, kau kolomatua (the company of old men), was confined to heads of kindreds. These heads were the eldest of the senior generation of their kindreds and at Fakaofu were elected by the fale pa. The approval of the high chief was necessary before they could take office.
The council deliberated on all land disputes, and serious infractions of the law under the advice of or by the consent of the high chief. It also directed community enterprises, decided the times for ceremonial fishing by the village fleet, and the gathering of food from the plantations.
The high chief was supreme head over the council, but the active leadership was carried on by a head of council who was also the executive officer of the high chief. He directed most civil matters, voiced the high chief's desires to the council, and acted as intermediary for the council and the people to the high chief. He was called the faipule by Atafu informants, but this is a term for the modern head of council, which was borrowed from Samoa and which was probably not used formerly. The term puseve for head of council is given by Thomson (31). Bird (2) considers the “speaker” (head of council) the real ruler.