Status: Dependent Territory of New Zealand
Population: 1,499 (2016 census)
Area: 4 square miles
Currency: New Zealand Dollar (100 cents = $1; NZ$1 = US$0.71)
The Tokelau Islands were commonly called the Union Islands before 1946. They are three small atolls about 250 miles north of Samoa. Nukunonu is the largest, followed by Fakaofo and Atafu. The population is about equally divided among the three.
Tokelau Scott 2,5, and 8
Commodore John Byron, grandfather of the poet Lord Byron, became the first European to visit Tokelau, when the HMS Dolphin landed at Atafu in 1765. In 1791, the British discovered Nukunonu when searching for the HMS Bounty mutineers. An American whaler discovered Fakaofo in 1835.
Both Catholic and Protestant missionaries were active on the islands after 1845. In 1863, Peruvian slavers kidnapped most of the able-bodied men for forced labor. The same year, a dysentery epidemic struck Tokelau from Samoa, further reducing the population to about 200. The British extended protection to the islands in 1877 by an order in council that claimed jurisdiction over all unclaimed Pacific Islands. In 1889, when the British thought Tokelau might be useful for a transpacific cable, the islands were formally declared a British protectorate. On February 29, 1916, they were annexed and attached to the Gilbert and Ellice Islands colony, more than 700 miles to the west.
That long distance relationship did not work out. Consequently, in 1925, New Zealand, which now had the formerly German Samoa, became the administering authority. In 1948, New Zealand assumed full authority over the islands and its inhabitants became New Zealand citizens. A proposal to unite them with either Samoa or the Cook Islands was rejected by the Tokelauans in 1964. In 1980, the U.S. renounced its claim to the islands dating from 1856, though the Tokelauans continue to claim the American possession of Swains Island.
The Tokelau Apia Liaison Office in Apia Samoa performs many functions normally performed in a national capital, such as budget management. The islanders oppose having an island capital because they do not want to disturb the notion that the three islands are equal. Each is ruled by an elected headman and island council. Representatives of the islands meet twice a year. The venue rotates. This body has almost complete control over local affairs.
Stamps of Gilbert and Ellice Islands were used from February 1911 to June 1926, when they were replaced by those of Samoa. Samoan stamps were replaced by Tokelau stamps in 1948. Formerly, a seaplane from Suva visited the islands every four months. Air service was suspended in 1983. Today, transportation to the islands relies on a 65-passenger ship from Apia about twice a month, which carries supplies, including the mail.
The first Tokelau Islands stamps were issued June 22, 1948, as a result of the Tokelau Islands Act. Although the word “Islands” was officially dropped from the country’s name on May 7, 1946, stamps continued to use the inscription “Tokelau Islands” until 1977, when it became simply “Tokelau.” Each island has a post office, though philatelic sales are handled by New Zealand Post.
Tokelau Scott 32,58, and 252B