Reviving the Tokelauan language

  • Hon Aupito William Sio
Pacific Peoples

Reviving the Tokelauan language is the perfect theme of this year’s Tokelauan Language Week, Vaiaho o te Gagana Tokelau, which runs from 21-27 October 2018.

“This is the final of seven Pacific language weeks to be celebrated this year. These weeks have been a powerful reminder of the importance of hearing our stories, in our languages, from our people,” says Minister for Pacific Peoples Aupito William Sio.

At the time of the 2013 Census, there were nearly 7,200 Tokelauans living in New Zealand, which is five times the number that live in Tokelau. Tokelau is part of the Realm of New Zealand and its people are New Zealand citizens. Tokelauans make up about 2.4 percent of Aotearoa’s Pacific population.

“With nearly three quarters of Tokelauans now born in New Zealand, protecting and preserving the language is more important than ever.

“Sadly, we know from Census data that the number of Tokelauan speakers in New Zealand is declining, with just 2469 speakers at the time of the 2013 Census.

“This gradual decline has seen UNESCO put Tokelau on the list of severely endangered languages. We must act now to prevent the language from being lost to future generations.

The theme of this year’s Tokelau Language week is, E kukutia te tiugā lakia. E kukulima kae ala tahi, translated as Gather together the flock of birds, hold hands and go forward as one.

“This Tokelauan Language Week, I ask you to become champions for the Tokelauan language. Find ways to foster an environment of Gagana Tokelau in our kāiga (family), āoga (school), lotu (church), and fakalāpotopotoga (community organisation),” says Aupito William Sio.

Note to editors:

Tokelauan Language Week will be officially launched by Pacific Peoples Minister Aupito William Sio on Monday 22 October at 10am and will be held at Matauala Community Hall, 100 Bedford Street, Porirua.  MP for Mana, Hon Kris Faafoi will also be attending and speaking at the launch. 

Further information about Tokelauan Language Week including events and resources can be found here.