Mālo ni!

On this page you can explore content from previous years of Te Vaiaho o te Gagana Tokelau, Tokelau Language Week.


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


Fuli Pereira

Curator Pacific

Fuli Pereira

Mālo Ni! 

To celebrate Tokelau Language Week the Museum will share staff stories, objects from the collections from books to plants, and crosswords to help improve your Tokelauan vocabulary, and even colouring-in pages.


Image: Fuli Pereira with knowledge holder Mrs Sefulu Kalolo and Tokelau community lead Rev, Iutana Pue looking over the last known Tokelau o (a species of small fish) fishing net.

Colour in two beautiful Tokelauan ili

Colour in two beautiful Tokelauan ili

'Ili' is the Tokelauan word for a woven fan. A very practical thing to have on hand on a hot day, but also a beautifully woven object on its own. We have made two ili from the Museum's collection into colouring in pages.

Download the first ili Download the second ili

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 crossword for Tokelau Language Week. When you're done, you can find the answers here

Download now

The Flora of Tokelau

The Flora of Tokelau

By Ewen Cameron, Curator Botany

The first wild vascular Flora (a comprehensive record of the plants of an area) for the Tokelau archipelago was published in 2018 by Dr Art Whistler – the information below is mainly from that Flora. It was based on a botanical literature review, herbarium collections and Whistler's four collecting trips, during 1976-2011. The term ‘vascular plant’ includes: flowering plants, conifers and ferns. Cultivated species are excluded, and in Tokelau there are no conifers recorded.

The four islands of the archipelago are atolls with a maximum elevation of 5m above sea level. The vegetation is broadly placed into four plant communities: managed land vegetation (regularly disturbed, including pulaka/giant swamp taro pits), coconut plantations, freshwater marsh (restricted to Olohega/Swains Island) and littoral strand (contains virtually all of the original vegetation of Tokelau). Most of the littoral strand species have buoyant, saltwater-resistant seeds and fruit capable of long-distance dispersal by ocean currents and consequently are mostly widespread in the tropical Pacific.

Lacking any high land, the flora is limited to only 100 wild species, only 38% of which are native. Tokelau has no unique/endemic species. Two species are quite rare, including tamatama/lau tamatama (Achyranthes velutina) which is present on the four islands. It was discovered on Macauley Island (part of the Kermadec Islands) in 2002 – making it one of the few species common to both Tokelau and New Zealand.

Image: Flora of Tokelau, by Art Whistler, 2018, published by Isle Botanica, Honoluu. 125p. 
Cover features Gahu (
Scaevola taccada) abundant shrub in clearings and on the margins of the littoral forest.

The Auckland Museum herbarium holds at least 40 vascular plant specimens from the Tokelau archipelago, mostly collected in 1995 on Olohega (Swains Island) in 1995 by Ian McFadden. Some are shown below.

W. Arthur “Art” Whistler, 1944-2020

Ethnobotanist, taxonomist, ecologist

W. Arthur “Art” Whistler, 1944-2020

His five decades of studying the plants of Polynesia and Micronesia began with a three-year stint in the U.S. Peace Corps in Western Samoa (1968-1970) where he taught high school biology. Art graduated in 1979 with a PhD in vegetation ecology from the University of Hawai’i. His interest and publications moved into ethnobotany, including books on: Tongan herbal medicine (1992), Polynesian herbal medicine (1992), Samoan herbal medicine (1995), Plants in Samoan culture (2001), and Plants of the canoe people (2009).

However, his real love has always been taxonomy and flora of Polynesia, especially Samoa. His Flora of Tokelau (2018) was based on his study there of the flora, rare plants and ethnobotany. His flora of Samoa is written and awaiting publication and he had intended to follow that up with a flora of Tonga. Sadly, Art died on 2 April 2020 in Honolulu after contracting Covid-19 during a trip to Washington State, USA. One of the few greats of Pacific botany, Art leaves behind a legacy of botanical publications and herbarium specimens.

Image: Art Whistler during field work on Lake Lanito’o, Upolo, Samoa. By Alice Campbell, Aug 2018.

Can you put the vaka back together?

Can you put the vaka back together?

Try your hand at assembling this Tokelauan vaka! Remember, you can adjust the number of puzzle pieces to suit the skill of the puzzler.

Start Jigsaw

From Sunday 23 October until Saturday 29 October, the Museum will be illuminated every evening in white, yellow and blue in recognition of Te Vaiaho o te Gagana Tokelau, Tokelau Language Week.