Tokelauan community group, Te Lauhigano Tokelau

Tokelauan community group, Te Lauhigano Tokelau

Pacific Cultures curator Rachel Yates, highlights the work and initiatives of Tokelauan community group, Te Lauhigano Tokelau from Porirua, New Zealand.

mitiafu (t-shirt)
mitiafu (t-shirt)

The Tokelauan population in New Zealand is significant; the last census details from 2006 inform us that Tokelauans are the sixth largest Pacific ethnic group in New Zealand.  6,819 people indicated at least one of their ethnicities to be Tokelauan and of those, over 4,000 born in New Zealand.

This mitiafu (t-shirt) was purchased by Te Papa staff at a Pacific Festival held in Auckland, New Zealand and is one of the evidential forms of this growing population.

Te Lauhigano Tokelau is a group that was formed by Tokelauans to promote development amongst their community in Porirua.

The Porirua and Hutt Valley region near Wellington have the highest concentration of Tokelauans in New Zealand, and Porirua even had the nickname of being the ‘capital of Tokelau’. Pacific curators in previous language weeks have blogged about Mafutaga Tupulaga Tokelau, another group from Porirua who have items in the Pacific Cultures collection.

model fale (house)
Model fale or faleafolau (house) – The fale model comprises of a rectangular wooden structure covered with a thatched roof of pandanus leaves. The base of the model is covered with small white pebbles imitating the coral pebbles which cover the floors of full size fale in Tokelau. indigenous fale in Tokelau are becoming scarce due to the incorporation of Western styled homes and imported materials.


In 2010, Te Lauhigano Tokelau group from Porirua, gifted this model fale (Tokelauan house) along with other items to Te Papa. The fale symbolises the ongoing relationship the museum has with the Tokelau community as well as documenting the existence and influence of Te Lauhigano Tokelau.

Members of Te Lauhigano Tokelau February 2010
Members of Te Lauhigano Tokelau February 2010

The Lauhigano group was part of a more formal project for the Wellington Regional Office of the Department of Internal Affairs. Community development advisors from Internal Affairs worked with the group to ensure their access to resources, training, funding, workshops that would assist them in building their capacity to deliver to their community.

In September 2010, Te Lauhigano Tokelau held a week long annual general meeting which over 100 members attended. At the meeting they found that as New Zealand based Tokelau people, they had lost many aspects of their indigenous Tokelau culture.  This hale further represents Te Lauhigano Tokelau’s effort to ensure that future generations of Tokelauans learn the history and culture of who they are. They would discuss issues of relevance and importance to Tokelauans located in New Zealand.

There has also been significant movement in the introduction of Tokelau language to play groups and early childhood learning centres in the Wellington region, all evidence of the success of initiatives such as Te Lauhigano Tokelau and how these types of gatherings can mobilise and empower communities to plan and make positive change.


mitiafu – t-shirt

fale (faleafolau) – house (long house)


  1. Thanks to Lauhigano for the model of a Tokelau traditional house which is called fale afolau or just fale. Malo te galulue.

    1. Author

      Fakafetai ni Ioane…

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