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Originally settled by Polynesian emigrants from surrounding island groups, the Tokelau Islands were made a British protectorate in 1889. They were transferred to New Zealand administration in 1925. Referenda held in 2006 and 2007 to change the status of the islands from that of a New Zealand territory to one of free association with New Zealand did not meet the needed threshold for approval.
Officially considered to consist of 3 islands, Tokelau included its fourth island, Olohega, in its 2006 draft constitution.
Olohega was claimed by an American whaling captain, Eli Jennings, in 1856. In 1925, Jennings’ descendants utilized their American connections to successfully annex Olohega, known then as “Swains Island,” to the United States, and the family continues to maintain their alleged ownership of the island today.
The Tokelauan people of Olohega were forcibly evicted from their island home by the Jennings family in the 1950s. Only a handful of people now live on Olohega, an island that once, as communal farming land, supported many Tokelauan communities with its bounty of crops.
The movement for the return of Olohega to the people of Tokelau is currently gaining momentum throughout the Pacific.
Source: CIA Factbook & Pasifika Foundation Hawai’i
CIA Factbook link to more demographic, geographic and economic data for Tokelau: