By Gladys Hartson and Ruci Farrell - firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Auckland's Tokelau community celebrated the start of Tokelau Language Week over the weekend at the Auckland War Memorial Museum.
De-population and small population numbers have contributed to Gagana Tokelau being listed as one of the Pacific languages at risk of being lost over time.
In his opening address, Reverend Fakaofo Kaio reminded people that language was a gift from God.
"To hold on to something, we have to practice what we're holding on to," he says. "The language, if it's not spoken, they say you lose it."
Reverend Fakaofo Kaio at the Tokelau Language Week launch. Photo/ PRN.
One of Te Vaka's lead singers, Sulata Foa'i-Amiatu, says Gagana Tokelau is at the heart of their stories and music.
"As Pacific people, as Tokelauan people it's our job to pass on the stories," she says. "There are studies that say that the Tokelauan language will be lost in 10 years and the stories will follow not long after if we don't do something about that now."
Foa'i-Amiatu says as well-known Pacific musicians, they're sharing Gagana Tokelau not only with their people but with the world.
Latest figures show 7176 Tokelauans reside in New Zealand compared to just 1499 that remain on Tokelau's three atolls.
Outgoing Caretaker Minister for Pacific Peoples, Alfred Ngaro, encouraged the Tokelauan community in Auckland to hold on tight to their language.
"Here's what becomes important for the language to continue on, tell it in the stories. Even the song, it's not just singing it's telling the story," he says. "Even when you're talking to your children, tell the story because what we all remember is the story."
Outgoing Caretaker Minister for Pacific Peoples. Photo/ PRN.
Labour MP for Mana in Wellington and newly-elected Minister, Kris Faafoi, says as a Tokelauan, he'd like to see more efforts to help those who aren't fluent in the language.
"Two thirds of people who identify as Tokelauan can't speak the language and unfortunately I'm one of them," he says. "We need to do more and change our attitudes to how we get more people speaking our parents' and grandparents' mother tongue."
Events will be held throughout the country this week to celebrate Gagana Tokelau.
Tokelau crafts at the Tokelau Language Week launch. Photo/ PRN.