Tongan Americans

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Tongan Americans
Total population
41,219 alone, 0.01% of US population
57,183 including partial ancestry, 0.02%
(2010 Census)
Regions with significant populations
California, American Samoa, Hawaii, Utah, Texas, Alaska, Nevada
American English, Tongan
Christianity, Polytheism
Related ethnic groups
Other Polynesians

Tongan Americans are Americans who can trace their ancestry to Tonga, officially known as the Kingdom of Tonga. There are approximately 57,000 Tongans and Tongan Americans living in the United States, as of 2012. [1] Tongans are considered to be Pacific Islanders in the United States Census, and are the fourth largest Pacific Islander American group in terms of population, after Native Hawaiians, Samoan Americans, and Guamanian/Chamorro Americans.


The Tongans have emigrated to the United States or its territories since 1916, when some people of this island immigrated to Laie, a census-designated place in Hawaii, which was then an American territory but not yet a state. Later, in 1924 [2] and 1936 two more Tongans emigrated to the United States, specifically to Utah, with an American Mormon who served as a missionary in Tonga (although the first of them only accompanied to mentioned mormon, since he only migrated to the USA to study there), while in 1956 the first Tongan family living in the United States was settled in Salt Lake City. However, it was not until the end of World War II when many more Tongans immigrated to the United States. Most of them were missionaries, who emigrated to the United States to work in several religious and cultural centers. Other many Tongans emigrated to the United States in the 50's. Since then, the number of Tongans to emigrate to the USA increased each decade: In the 60s emigrated more of 110 Tongans to the USA and in the 1970's emigrated more of 940 Tongans. The number was especially notable in the 80's and 90's. In this last decade emigrated over 1,900 Tongans to the USA. This is because the number of lands are limited on their country and not everyone has been able to get one, and jobs were scarce. [3] By 1980, 6,200 people of this origin were living in the US, and by in 1990 that number had increased to 17,600. [4] By 2000, there were 31,891 people of Tongan origin living in the United States. [5]


Tongan immigration has been favored primarily by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), who help them obtain visas (both studies and work) and employment and even they help them to get couples, when they are in marriageable age. [4]

The San Francisco Bay Area has the largest concentration of ethnic Tongans outside of Tonga, with an estimated population of 13,000 in San Mateo County alone, concentrated especially in the city of East Palo Alto. [1] Within San Mateo County, the city of San Mateo, San Bruno, and South San Francisco have sizable Tongan populations. Other Bay Area cities with significant Tongan populations include the East Bay cities of Oakland, San Leandro, Concord, and Pittsburg. Smaller communities can be found in Santa Clara County, mainly in Mountain View. [6] There are 500 people of Tongan descent living in Portland, Oregon (0.1% of the city's population).

The state of Utah has a large presence of Tongan Americans, and a significant Pacific Islander population in general. Tongans first started immigrating to Utah because of their attraction to the abundant amount of LDS congregations in the state. As of 2011, Utah has around 30 branches of Tongan Latter-day Saint churches. About one of four people of Tongan descent living in the U.S. live in Utah. Salt Lake County has more than 9,000 Tongan Americans in residence. Nearly 3,000 people of Tongan descent live in Salt Lake City alone. [7]

Euless, Texas has a sizable Tongan community. At least ten Tongan churches are present in Euless. Trinity High School is also well known in the local area for their tradition of beginning Friday night football games with the culture's traditional war cry, the Kailao. [8]

Other American cities with significant Tongan American populations include: the Greater Los Angeles Area city of Inglewood, Hawthorne, and the Inland Empire subregion. Anchorage, Alaska; Kona, Hawaii; Lahaina, Hawaii, and Reno, Nevada.

Notable people

See also


  1. ^ a b "Tongans mourn passing of king". San Mateo Daily Journal. March 20, 2012. Retrieved March 31, 2012.[ permanent dead link]
  2. ^ Danver, Steven L. (2013). "Encyclopedia of Politics of the American West". Sage Reference, Walden University. Page 515.
  3. ^ Cathy A. Small (1997). Voyages: From Tongan Villages to American Suburbs. Second edition (2011), Cornell University Press. Page 51.
  4. ^ a b Cooper, Amy. Everyculture: Tongan Americans
  5. ^ "Table 1. First, Second, and Total Responses to the Ancestry Question by Detailed Ancestry Code: 2000" (XLS). U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved May 16, 2016.
  6. ^ Kyriakou, Niko (September 3, 2011). "San Mateo County Tongan population looks for strength". San Francisco Examiner. Archived from the original on 2013-02-16. Retrieved February 4, 2013.
  7. ^ Davidson, Lee (September 12, 2011). "One of every four Tongans in U.S. calls Utah home". The Salt Lake Tribune. Retrieved February 4, 2013.
  8. ^ Longman, Jere (October 9, 2008). "An island for Tongans in a Texas high school". New York Times. Retrieved February 4, 2013.

External links