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Tokelau Language Week an opportunity for the younger generation to step up

Tokelau Language Week an opportunity for the younger generation to step up

  • 01 Nov 2020

As a toeaina (elder) of the Taupo Tokelau Community, Isitolo Meie Pakome views Tokelau Language Week as an opportunity for the younger generation to step up and drive initiatives to help the Tokelau language and culture to thrive. 

Celebrated from October 25-31, this year’s Tokelau Language Week has been focused on the theme, Apoapo tau foe, i nā tāfea i te galutau. Ke mau mai, ke mau mai - which in English translates to - Never give up hope, even amidst chaos and much uncertainty. Stay united, stay strong. 

It is a timely reminder considering the difficult times communities have faced due to the COVID-19 outbreak.   

Due to the pandemic, the language week launch and activities were hosted online, by Taupo Tokelau Community, who also helped establish the theme.   

“It has been an honour and privilege to be given this opportunity from the Ministry of Pacific Peoples,” Isitolo says. 

Tokelau Language Week has been celebrated since 2012 as part of MPP’s Pacific Language Weeks programme, and it is the ninth and final language week to be celebrated in 2020.

This year, the valued member of the New Zealand Realm of nations, is also celebrating 72 years since the assent of its Administration Act, marked on October 29.

Hailing from the atoll of Nukunonu, one of the four Tokelau Islands, Isitolo relocated to New Zealand aged 13, under the Pacific Island Education Scholarship Scheme, which was funded by the New Zealand Government in 1966. 

Having worked for Telecom for over 25 years and then New Zealand Post for 17 years, Isitolo is now happily retired, and spends his time with his wife of 49 years, their children, and grandchildren. 

When he is not with family, he is supporting the Taupo Tokelau Committee. 

“I am one of the toeaina of our community, and I like to listen in on committee meetings – and as elder I give advice to help with the Committee’s decision-making.” 

Some of those decisions have been based around the language week, including events during the week such as language workshops. 

“The week is an ideal chance to promote the Tokelau language, culture, and spiritual side not only to the younger generation but to all New Zealanders,” Isitolo says. 

“Personally, I see the week as an opportunity for the younger ones to take on new initiatives – the old people can’t do what our young ones can do today. 

“Things like using online platforms for meetings, social media and networking can be more challenging for us.” 

Isitolo is excited about the future of Tokelau Language Week and says it can grow to be bigger, with more people involved and interested in learning about the unique language and culture – starting from home. 

“It always starts from home, we need parents who still speak the language to encourage their children, and to teach the language at home.” 

Visit MPP for our nine Pacific Language Weeks resources and information.