Malo ni,

Ko toku igoa ko Tazmin Galo

Ko toku matua ko Suzanne Galo e hau mai Hamoa

Ko toku tamana ko Tausini Galo e hau mai Fakaofo,Tokelau.

Ko toku tupuna ko Gaeke ma Ruta Galo e hau mai Tokelau.

Ko au na fanau I Porirua

Fakatalofa atu kia te koutou

Fakamālo atu kia te koutou uma. My name is Tazmin Galo. Born and bred in Cannons Creek, Porirua. I am a New Zealand born half Tokelauan, half Samoan. My Tokelauan heritage ties me back to the village of Fakaofo, Tokelau where my late father was born and raised.

This year’s theme for Te vaiaho o te Gagana Tokelau - Tokelau Language Week is

'Tokelau! Tapui tau gagana ma tauaganuku, i te manaola ma te lautupuola'

which means:

Tokelau! Preserve your language and culture, to enhance spiritual and physical wellbeing.

The theme is very personal to me as I have been on a journey of self-reflection and improving my overall wellbeing. When my dad and the matriarch of our family, my grandmother passed away in the same year, a connection with my language and culture was lost. I was left in a space between grieving for my loved ones and a feeling of no longer belonging to the culture of my ancestors. This has led me to picking up the lost language that I was raised around and sharing and teaching that to my young children.

My grandparents migrated to New Zealand in the 1950s with the sole purpose of being able to find work and send those earnings back to the islands to care for their families. They moved straight to Taupo as the demand was high for forestry workers and a few years after working there, they moved to Porirua because of the growing Tokelauan community who played a vital role in my grandparents staying on to carve out a a new life here.

The Oxford dictionary definition of community is “ A group of people living in the same place or having the characteristic in common”. Sounds just about right, but also sounds a bit bland. If I were to put the word 'community' into a Pacific context, for me the meaning changes to a vibrant, passionate culture driven one. In this meaning, a community could be one’s livelihood, or one’s safe space.

A community of people from my life experiences are always looking to develop ways and support others in all aspects without expecting anything in return. I know my grandparents relied heavily on the support of others in their Tokelauan community to help them on their new journey in NZ. Once they found their feet, they bought a house in Cannons Creek, a home full of fond childhood memories that still stands today, except my beloved grandparents are no longer inside.

My grandparents Gaeke and Ruta Galo.

Growing up, my siblings and I were immersed into cultural customs, traditions and the Tokelauan culture. My Dad was the oldest of five children. He would tell us stories of growing up in the islands and some of the struggles he faced, but he never allowed us to go through those same struggles. In a sense, he protected us from the “island life” and gave us permission to live our lives how we chose to.

My Dad carried a lot of pressures and responsibilities being the eldest child and helped my grandparents in every sense, still guiding them through life well into his adult years. Once my siblings and I were old enough, we took over on some of those responsibilities. My favourite "responsibility" took place every Friday night, when my sisters and I would run the half time kitchen for Housie nights, while my grams was inside trying to win payment for our services. 

My parents raised us with nothing but endless and conditional love, yet at times, there was a underlying yearning to have been raised to speak the language that my Dad spoke so fluently and so elegantly.

Does not being able to speak the language fluently make me less than those who can?

This was a question I often asked myself. On reflection, my answer to that is a solid 'No." I was never made to feel that way growing up, my family never forced the language on us kids and in time, we took our own paths learning the language as we saw fit.

My dad’s tattoo that he was so proud of: Tokelau, taku pele – 'Tokelau, my love'

I have found myself engaging and offering myself more to my culture unconsciously. For example, this year I decided to coach my daughter’s netball team as a way of giving back to my Tokelauan community. We are the only Tokelauan club in Porirua – MTTP – Mafutaga Tupulaga Tokelau o Porirua. After the first few games, I realised that I wasn’t only teaching this group a sport, I was teaching them life skills. Teaching them discipline, trust, teamwork and communication. Skills that embody core values of overall wellbeing.

Coaching the Mafutaga Tupulaga Tokelau o Porirua Sharks – Future Ferns

As I reflect on this years Tokelauan Language week and the chosen theme, I think it is important to link it to our own personal journeys. Especially in times like these during a worldwide pandemic. Now is the time more than ever to take the utmost care with our overall wellbeing. I encourage everyone to take a few moments a day to centre your mind. There are so many small things that can make your day more enjoyable and stress free. Take the time to enhance your spiritual and physical wellbeing.

My parents wedding photo - December 1985

Ke manuia te Vaiaho o te Gagana Tokelau.


Hero image by Roberto Nickson on Unsplash

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