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Tokelau champions language and culture

Tokelau champions language and culture

  • 26 Oct 2021
  • |
  • Tokelau
Tokelau LW Poster tile

Welcome to Te Vaiaho o te Gagana Tokelau - Tokelau Language Week 2021. 

COVID-19 continues to be a powerful reminder of the importance of language and culture to the wellbeing of our Pacific communities. 

Minister for Pacific Peoples Hon Aupito William Sio says the people of Tokelau know only too well how the global currents of uncertainty wrought by climate change erode physical and spiritual wellbeing as they also damage the land and natural environment. 

“Our Tokelau community in Aotearoa has responded strongly to the challenges of the global pandemic by getting vaccinated and supporting others in our Pacific communities to get their vaccine,” Minister Sio says. 

“So, it’s appropriate that for this year’s Tokelau Language Week, the Tokelau community has chosen, Tokelau! Tapui tau gagana ma tau aganuku, i te manaola ma te lautupuola, which means Tokelau! Preserve your language and culture, to enhance spiritual and physical wellbeing.” 

Tapui emphasises the need to care for and nurture the Tokelau language and culture to ensure its growth and prosperity. 

Minister Sio adds the Tokelau community has also embraced, for the second year running, the opportunities presented by celebrating Te Gagana o Tokelau – the Tokelau language – online, to keep people safe from COVID-19. 

“There’s a traditional saying in Tokelau culture, ‘ko na alofivae e hē mātutu’, rendered in English as ‘the soles of our feet are never dry’ – our work is never done, we must keep persevering,” he says. 

“I know this spirit of resilience, embodied in the Kanava wood so beloved of Tokelau’s carvers, will ensure the language and culture of Tokelau are preserved, enhancing the spiritual and physical wellbeing of our Tokelau people, be they here in Aotearoa or back on the beautiful atolls of Tokelau.” 

Tokelau’s three coral atolls, Atafu, Fakaofo and Nukunonu, cover a total land area of just 12 square kilometres. 

The  most recent census records 8,676 Tokelauans living in Aotearoa, almost half of those in the Whanganui-a-Tara region.

This year marks 73 years since Tokelau became part of the New Zealand realm. 

“Take the time this year to join Tokelauans across the motu in celebrating Tokelau Language Week with a variety of online activities. 

“Even learning a greeting or two can be the window into Tokelau’s cultural traditions, as well as a chance to meet new people, with fresh perspectives,” Minister Sio says. 

Tokelau Language Week has been celebrated since 2012 as part of the Ministry for Pacific Peoples’ (MPP) Pacific Language Weeks programme and is the ninth and final language week to be celebrated this year.  

The Language Week will start on October 24 and conclude October 30.   

Learn more about Tokelau Language Week