Pacific Island Guide > Tokelau
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Tokelau is a territory of New Zealand that consists of three tropical coral atolls in the South Pacific Ocean. The United Nations General Assembly designated Tokelau a Non-Self-Governing Territory.
Until 1976 the official name was Tokelau Islands. Tokelau was formerly known as the Union Islands.
Tokelau is a group of coral atolls enclosing large lagoons. “Tokelau” means “north wind” in Tokelauan. The languages spoken are Tokelauan and English. Tokelau is a non-self-governing territory under New Zealand administration. New Zealand makes up their financial deficit and contributes their defence. They are so isolated; they have a very poor economy. There are less than 1,500 inhabitants. Many immigrate to New Zealand each year. About 5,000 Tokelauans live in New Zealand. Samoa is its nearest neighbour. Atafu, Nukunonu, and Fakaofo are the islands and they lie about halfway between Hawaii and New Zealand.
Early history Originally settled by Polynesians from surrounding islands.
1765-1835 British sailors and Whalers visit. Some islanders have British names.
1840 Catholic missionaries convert the people of Nukunonu.
1858 Protestant Samoans convert the people of Atafu.
1850-60 Peruvian slave traders kidnap 250 islanders. Another 500 are removed by missionaries, and many die from diseases.
1889 Tokelau becomes a part of the crown colony of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands British protectorate. Many Tokelauans go to Banaba to work in the phosphate mines.
1916 Tokelau becomes part of the British Commonwealth
1925 Tokelau is administered by New Zealand.
1946 Tokelau is officially administered by New Zealand.
1992 Inter-atoll ferry and telecommunications ease isolation.
2002 Tokelau moves toward a free association with New Zealand, similar to that of Niue.
2004 Overpopulation is a problem. Global warming threatens to cover the tiny island with water.