Mālo ni!

Sunday 23th October – Saturday 29th October 2022 is Te Vaiaho o te Gagana Tokelau, Tokelau Language Week.

Kua haunia e kimatou he talatalanoaga ma he tino Tokelau e lelei tona iloa i te Gagana, ma ka talanoa mai ia ki te tāua o te gagana kia te ia vena ma te tāua o te fakaaogāgā. E iei foki na tuhituhiga, tala, ma na ata ona mea tau Tokelau, ma iētahi vaega. Ni tapenapenaga mo te fakamanatugia o te Vaiaho o te Gagana Tokelau.

To celebrate Tokelau Language Week, we're featuring a video interview with Tokelau language expert Neta Peau, where she shares what her language means to her and the importance of practising it. You can also explore a collection of interesting blogs, stories, Tokelau items, and more.


Header image: Vilivili (pump drill); AWMM 1998.13.11, 55491.


Neta Peau

Tokelau Cultural Advisor and Language Translator

Neta Peau

This year’s theme for Tokelau Language Week is “Tokelau! Tapui tau gagana ma tau aganuku, i te manaola ma te lautupuola”, translating to “Tokelau! Preserve your language and culture, to enhance spiritual and physical wellbeing.”

Tokelau Cultural Advisor and Language Translator Neta Peau discusses how giving love to others is inseparable from preserving language and culture.

Love supersedes everything else. Although it is not just the love we show towards our own people that is important, but the love we show towards our community. The love that we give to the newcomer who happens to walk by our house; bound by generosity, the love we show when we invite that tagata (person) to come and share a meal at our table. Showing love towards the community is a value expressed by my ancestors in the villages of Fakaofo and Atafu in Tokelau. It was a value expressed by my late grandfather, Teata Tinielu. The love that he had for not just his family, but his people, culture, language and Tokelau is what makes him one of my biggest inspirations.

I try to show love for my community by working to educate others about Tokeluan language and culture. I show this through my work as a cultural advisor and language translator. I am teaching fatele (traditional dance) and songs to my grandchildren and I have started Tokelaun language classes at home with my three children and makopuna (grandchildren). I hope they will aspire to teach the language themselves when they’re older.

My love for my language drives me to do all that I can to retain, revitalise and to teach it through song and dance. In particular, songs are a good a way of connecting the younger generation to the older generation. 

I remember the village of Nukufou where I attended school as a youngster, where dreams were recognised and where life was carefree. The coolness of the sea breeze often took one’s breath away. It was, and still is, a reminder that we are gifted our land and our language to uphold and to treasure. We are gifted them to pass on for generations to come.

Naunau mo he lumanaki manuia.

Strive for a better and successful tomorrow.


Top Image: (Left - Right) Neta’s youngest son, Elia Peau; Neta Peau; Neta's husband, Ben Peau; daughter, Milena Peau with her daughter Mariana and her partner Isaac Fitzgerald. Missing in this picture is Neta’s second son, Isala Peau.
Bottom image: Neta performing in traditional Tokelaun attire. 


Watch and learn from Neta Peau

We caught up with Cultural Advisor and Language Translator Neta Peau to discuss her work within the Tokelaun community. Neta shares about her role as an official Tokelauan face and voice in COVID-19 messaging, protecting those in her community with English as a language barrier. Neta also discusses her work with the younger generation - from vaccination initiatives to preserving gagana Tokelau (Tokelauan language) and culture through her passion for dance and songs.

+Learn more about Neta

Neta is a cultural advisor, tutor, and translator. She has been involved in the Tokelaun community since she was a youngster, attending school in the village of Nukufou.

Neta is currently conducting research on behalf of the Ministry for Pacific Peoples regarding Te Gagana Tokelau. She sits on the Auckland Tokelau Society Board as well as The Mulihelu Atafu Trust Board. She is the Secretary for the Mafutaga Tupulaga Tokelau i Aukilani and also one of their Cultural Leaders. She does translations for MOE and MOH through the Pacific Education Centre, and for the Ministry of Pacific Peoples through PEC and Bright Sunday.

A gagana Tokeulau speaker, Neta is part of the Tokelau team presenting COVID-19 messages on media platforms. She is also working closely with Pacific leaders in West Auckland and local Pacific providers, along with WDHB, to look into initiatives to encourage Pacific people to get vaccinated.

Neta has just started a small business called Te Malamala Solutions with the hope of running language and cultural classes as well as consultancy work.

She says "I am passionate about the importance of maintaining our culture, our way of life and our language. I love singing and dancing and have a passion for other cultures."

This video includes a section of footage from the Ministry for Pacific Peoples (MPP),


Words with Neta

Have a go at these Tokelaun words and expressions used by our guest Neta:

tuluma - tackle box / tulou - sorry / fakamākeke - to be strong, to get together / pūpū - drinking bottle / manuia - success or successful / gagana - language / tatalanoaga - interview, discussion / haunia - prepare / fakamanatu - celebrate, remind, remember / fakatalofa atu - to greet

Pa Atu ma Kahoa: The pearl-shell lures and pendants of Tokelau

Pa Atu ma Kahoa: The pearl-shell lures and pendants of Tokelau

Curator Pacific Fuli Pereira discusses the importance of pearl-shell fish lures in Tokelau culture and how these are circulated in the most egalitarian of communities.


Image: Pa atu (fishing lure); AWMM 1970.208, 43860.

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Tautai: The knowledge sharing of Tokelau’s master fishermen

Tautai: The knowledge sharing of Tokelau’s master fishermen

By Leone Samu (Associate Curator, Documentary Heritage, Pacific Collections)

In 2008, a group of Porirua-based Atafu elders who had migrated to New Zealand in the 1960s and 1970s published a booklet entitled Hikuleo i te papa o Tautai. The booklet was written in gagana Tokelau and detailed the traditional fishing methods of Atafu. In 2012, the elders’ booklet was edited and translated into English by Emeritus Professor Anthony Hooper and Dr Iuta Tinielu under the title Echoes on Fishermen’s Rock.

Master fishermen are known as tautai in gagana Tokelau. Although tautai may once have closely guarded this body of fishing knowledge, the elders elected to share their knowledge with the intent of passing it on to youth especially those growing up outside of Tokelau.  

This desire to share with the next generation has been similarly reflected in the generosity of Auckland-based Tokelauan elders who participated in Auckland Museum’s Pacific Collection Access Project (PCAP). Over several talanoa sessions in early 2019, these elders discussed Tokelauan fishing practices and the prowess of tautai, among other topics which helped to increase our documentation and understanding of the Tokelauan treasures in the Pacific collection. These talanoa were facilitated by the Community Lead for the Tokelauan community, Reverend Iutana Pue. The records of many of the objects examined can be explored through Collections Online.


Image: Pā taki aheu (pearl shell fishing lure); AWMM 1970.208, 43862. Attributed to Dr Iona Tinielu of Fakaofo, tautai and trained medical doctor.


A catch from our Documentary Heritage collection

Casting a net into our Documentary Heritage collection brings a catch of archival items related to tautai and Tokelauan fishing knowledge, three of which are highlighted here.


Ko te Koloa a Tokelau by Peato Tutu Perez

Ko te Koloa a Tokelau by Peato Tutu Perez

The Museum’s pamphlet collection holds two versions of an informative booklet called Ko te Koloa a Tokelau – A Treasure of Tokelau, written by the late community elder, Peato Tutu Perez. Mr Perez was brought up on Fakaofo atoll and documented many aspects of Tokelauan life. He passed away in 1980.

Over a span of twenty pages, his pamphlet discusses the significance of tifa (mother of pearl shell) to Tokelauan culture, and describes in detail the manufacture of pā, or pearl shell fishing lures. Diagrams indicating how a pearl shell would be cut to form the highly sought-after fishing lures, as well as naming different components that make up a full pā are included in the text.

Ko te Koloa o Tokelau was first published in a limited ‘trial run’ of 300 copies in 1989. This was then followed by a re-issued in 1992 in gagana Tokelau by Learning Media as a resource for children growing up in Aotearoa New Zealand. Both versions are available to view in the Museum Library.

Traditional Tuna Fishing in Tokelau by Robert Gillett

Traditional Tuna Fishing in Tokelau by Robert Gillett

In July 1984, the South Pacific Commission (now known as the Pacific Community) acted on a request from the Office for Tokelau Affairs for assistance on a project to document traditional fishing knowledge. It was rightly believed that tautai possessed invaluable cultural knowledge and specialised skills of considerable interest to fisheries scientists and the like.

The resulting report, Traditional Tuna Fishing in Tokelau (1985) was authored by Robert Gillett. It presents information gathered from interviews conducted in Tokelau with fifteen tautai, including: Teata, Uili, Teao, Havini, Gau, Logotahi, Peleni, Mika, Toloa, Tu, Dr Iona, all from Fakaofo; Paulino and Apolo from Nukunonu; and Teve and Taumanu from Atafu. Details are given of their birthdates, the names of the tautai under whom they took instruction and gained their knowledge of tuna fishing from, and the date at which they underwent the kau kumete ceremony to advance to the title of tautai themselves.

Some of the subjects discussed with the tautai included fish taxonomy, tifa, manufacture of equipment, vaka paopao, fishing techniques, and information relating to the lunar calendar with discussion of optimal times of year for various methods of fishing.

The translator on Gillet’s project was Dr Iona Tinielu who, as well as being a trained medical doctor was also a tautai himself.  At the conclusion of the report, Gillet recalls: “Perhaps the fondest memory I will have of my work in Tokelau will be Dr Tinielu’s soft chuckling when, in the course of an interview, some interesting fishing information previously unknown to him, was revealed.”

Auckland Museum has a pā in the collection that is attributed to Dr Tinielu (click here).

Print files from the National Publicity Studio

Print files from the National Publicity Studio

Image: Fishing beyond the reef from canoes (paopao). Photographer Mr. Nicholson. Archives NZ (AAQT6539 W353769 /A81159).

While not officially catalogued as part of our Documentary Heritage collections, Auckland Museum holds 133 print files from a series taken by the National Publicity Studio on an official trip to Tokelau in 1966.

The photographer on the trip was R. Nicholson. Many of the images are taken on Fakaofo atoll, and among them are pictures of government officials and everyday village life, including several images of Tokelauan fishermen, young and old, at work.

The above photograph depicts a Tokelauan fisherman, perhaps a tautai, lowering his fishing line into the water. He is wearing diving goggles on his head, seated in a vaka paopao (outrigger canoe) with two others seated behind him. These fishermen are not identified in the record documentation at this time.

All the original images and their copyright are held by Archives New Zealand.

For members of the Auckland-based Tokelauan community who may find it difficult to travel to Wellington or navigate access to these images online, these print files can also be requested to view in the Library’s reading room, and Documentary Heritage staff are happy to assist with online access for these or any of the publications mentioned in this blog.

The question of Olohega

The question of Olohega

Curator Pacific Fuli Pereira has chosen this article as a must-read for Tokelau Language Week. The paper presents a timeline of the United States claiming sovereignty over the Tokelau island of Olohega, most recently through a proclaimed “friendship treaty” organised by New Zealand. Author Laray Polk explains that despite this claim, Olohega belongs geographically, historically, and culturally to the nation of Tokelau.

“Tokelau has deeply felt the loss of Olohega. The treaty that confirms its annexation, which is how Tokelau views it, is Tokehega. This word is a combination of Tokelau and Olohega, but poignantly it also means 'a separation from' or 'wrenching away’,” explains Fuli.

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Sea change

Sea change

Curator Pacific Fuli Pereira’s career at Auckland Museum is defined by an absolute shift in the way consultation is carried out and a dedication to descendant communities of makers and owners of collections in the care of Auckland Museum. For Tokelau Language Week, she reflects on some lessons she’s learned, how change is made, and what she hopes to see happen next.

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The books of Fuli Pereira

In addition to her role at Auckland Museum, Fuli is an accomplished author. Leone Samu (Associate Curator, Documentary Heritage, Pacific Collections) selected some of Fuli's books available in the Museum's collection. Click on each cover to read more.


Tokelauan crossword

Tokelauan crossword

Did you know that the Tokelauan alphabet only has 15 letters? Find the Tokelauan equivalent for the English word clues in this new crossword for Tokelau Language Week 2021.

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Our Tokelauan library

Here is a selection of some of the Tokelauan books in the Museum's collection. Click on each cover to read more.

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Visit our archive of Tokelau Language Week content from previous years.

Image: The Museum illuminated in white, yellow and blue in recognition of Te Vaiaho o te Gagana Tokelau, Tokelau Language Week.

Visit the archive