CULTURE AND DIASPORA IN TONGA

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Tonga has been inhabited for perhaps 3,000 years, since settlement in late Lapita times. The culture of its inhabitants has surely changed greatly over this long time period. Before the arrival of European explorers in the late 1600s and early 1700s, the Tongans were in frequent contact with their nearest Oceanic neighbors, Fiji and Samoa. In the 1800s, with the arrival of Western traders and missionaries, Tongan culture changed dramatically. Some old beliefs and habits were thrown away, and others adopted. Some accommodations made in the 1800s and early 1900s are now being challenged by changing Western civilization.

Contemporary Tongans often have strong ties to overseas lands. Many Tongans have emigrated to Australia, New Zealand, and the United States to seek employment and a higher standard of living. U.S. cities with significant Tongan American populations include Seattle, Washington; Portland, Oregon; Anchorage, Alaska; Inland Empire, California; San Mateo, California; East Palo Alto, California; San Bruno, California; Oakland, California; Inglewood, California; Los Angeles, California; Salt Lake City, Utah; Honolulu, Hawaii; Reno, Nevada, and Euless, Texas (in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex). Large Tongan communities can also be found in Auckland, New Zealand, and in Melbourne and Sydney, Australia. This Tongan diaspora is still closely tied to relatives at home, and a significant portion of Tonga's income derives from remittances to family members (often aged) who prefer to remain in Tonga.

Tongans, therefore, often have to operate in two different contexts, which they often call anga fakatonga, the traditional Tongan way, and anga fakapãlangi, the Western way. A culturally adept Tongan learns both sets of rules and when to switch between them.