Tikopia - Orientation

Identification. The name "Tikopia" (sometimes written "Tucopia" by early European voyagers), given to a small Island in the Solomon group, is also applied by the inhabitants to themselves. The expression, glossed as "we, the Tikopia," is commonly used to differentiate themselves from the people of other islands in the Solomons and elsewhere.

Location. Tikopia is a little, isolated, high island, primarily an extinct volcano with fringing coral reef, rising to a peak of 350 meters but extending only 4.6 square kilometers. It is in the southeast of the Solomons, at 168°50′ E and 12° 18′ S. Historically, until the mid-1950s, the Tikopia people occupied only this island. But then, stimulated by the pressure of the population on the food supply and by a desire for Experience of the outside world, Tikopia people began to settle in groups elsewhere in the Solomons. Now the substantial settlements abroad include Nukufero in the Russell Islands, Nukukaisi (Waimasi) in San Cristobal, and Murivai in Vanikoro. All Tikopia live in a tropical climate, with alternating trade-wind and monsoon seasons; during the latter their homes are subject to periodic hurricanes (tropical cyclones).

Demography. About half a century ago Tikopia had a dense population, about 300 persons per square kilometer. This density caused anxiety among the people's leaders, who feared food shortages. (In 1952-1953 a famine occurred as a result of a tropical cyclone.) In 1929 the population was about 1,270; by 1952 it had risen to about 1,750. But by about 1980, through emigration, the population on Tikopia Island had been reduced to about 1,100, while another 1,200 or so Tikopia lived in the external settlements and around Honiara, the capital of the Solomons. There is much interchange of population between the settlements and Tikopia Island.

Linguistic Affiliation. The Tikopia are Polynesian in Language and culture, their language being assigned to a Western Polynesian grouping. But from neighboring peoples they have acquired some Melanesian loan words as well as other cultural items. Tikopia has no dialects. But as a result of external contact many Tikopia now speak English and all can use "pijin."

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