Legend has it that a party of Tongans were the first people to settle on Nukufetau. It is said that when they landed there they found but one fetau tree growing there and so they called the place Nukufetau, "the island of the fetau".
Shortly afterwards they sailed back to Tonga to obtain some coconuts to plant on the sandbanks of the newly discovered land, and on returning to Nukufetau settled at Fale on the western part of the island. As time passed, the population increased and there arose men of outstanding character who were recognized as chiefs.
In order to more effectively protect the island from sea-raiders the early chiefs divided the inhabitants into three main clans which live in different areas. Fialua, one of the chiefs was put in charge of Lafaga the biggest of the eastern islets. Tauasa was placed on the northern islet of Motulalo while Lagitupu and Laupapa remained at Fale. In later years, after the coming of missionaries, the whole population reassembled at Fale, before shifting to nearby Savave, an islet on the lagoon side of the Fale settlement.
Another, more recent, event that is proudly celebrated on Nukufetau is the opening of a boarding school on the islet of Motumua on 11th February 1947. Established and operated by the local community entirely at its own expense, the purpose of the school, named Tutasi, was to fulfil parents' demands that their children obtain a better education, especially in the English language.
This school lasted until 1951 when, at the request of the Ministry of Education, it was transferred to Savave and became the Government's Primary School for the whole island. Yet its service to the community was not forgotten. The new school was called Tutasi Memorial School and Seluka Resture, a grandson of Alfred Restieaux, was sent to set it up. Interestingly Seluka Resture, when he returned to open Tutasi Memorial School brought with him the first motorbike on the island. The local children would run around behind his bike and smell the tyre prints.
Each year since it was opened, the 11th February has been celebrated by the students of Tutasi Memorial School, and their parents, as "Founding Day" in honour of its predecessor.
Click on the map above for a detailed map