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Blessed to be a Blessing!

Tokelau

Motto: Tokelau for the Almighty

Tokelau is a territory of New Zealand in the South Pacific Ocean that consists of three tropical coral atolls with a combined land area of 10 km2 and a population of approximately 1,400. Each atoll consists of a number of reef-bound islets encircling a lagoon. No significant land is more than two metres above high water of ordinary tides. Tokelau has no harbours, ports or airport. The only way to reach Tokelau is from Samoa, by ship, which runs every 2 weeks. The main language is Tokelauan, but English is also spoken. The name Tokelau is a Polynesian word meaning "north wind".

The UN General Assembly designated Tokelau a Non-Self-Governing Territory. The islands were previously named the Union Islands. The Atolls became ‘Tokelau’ on 9th December 1976. The country is administered by the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The ministry appoints an Administrator for a three year term. Each of three atolls has its own administrative centre. Tokelauans are New Zealand citizens.


HISTORY

According to local oral traditions, the 3 atolls forming today's Tokelau were settled from Samoa, Cook Islands and Tuvalu.


Commodore John Byron was the first European to come across the islands in 1765. During the 19th century, the atolls were visited by a succession of whalers, explorers, beachcombers and missionaries. Like other islands in the region, the three atolls were raided in the 1860s by Peruvian 'blackbirders' searching for slave labour. The Atolls were formally placed under British administration in 1889.

Inhabitants followed Polynesian mythology with the local ‘god’ and developed forms of music and art. The three atolls functioned largely independently while maintaining social and linguistic cohesion. Tokelauan society was governed by chiefly clans. Life on the atolls was subsistence-based, with reliance on fish and coconut.


RELIGION

Missionaries preached Christianity in Tokelau from 1845 to the 1860s. French Catholic missionaries on Wallis Island and missionaries of the Protestant London Missionary Society in Samoa used native teachers to convert the Tokelauans. Today the major religion is the Congregational Christian Church. On the island of Atafu almost all inhabitants are members of the Congregational Christian Church of Samoa. On Nukunonu almost all are Roman Catholic. In the third atoll (Fakaofo) both denominations are present with the Congregational Christian Church predominant. The total proportions are: Congregational Christian Church 62%, Roman Catholic 34%, other 5%.


ECONOMY

According to the US Central Intelligence Agency's list of countries by GDP, Tokelau has the smallest economy of any country in the world. The government is almost entirely dependent on subsidies from New Zealand. Tokelau annually exports around US$100,000 of stamps, copra and woven and carved handicrafts and imports over US$300,000 of foodstuffs, building materials and fuel from New Zealand. New Zealand also pays directly for the cost of medical and education services. Local industries include small-scale enterprises for copra production, wood work, plaited craft goods, stamps, coins, and fishing. Agriculture and livestock produces coconuts, copra, breadfruit, papayas, bananas, pig (most households own 5 or more pigs), poultry and a few goats. A large number of Tokelauans live in New Zealand and support their families in Tokelau through remittances.


Their isolation and lack of resources greatly limits economic development and confines agriculture to the subsistence level. The very limited natural resources and overcrowding are contributing to emigration to New Zealand and Samoa, resulting in a population decline of about 0.9% per year.


Only 9% of Tokelauans aged 40 or more have never been married. One quarter of the population were born overseas; almost all the rest live on the same atoll they were born on.

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