According to tradition the first chief of Nanumea was Tefolaha who married an aitu named Laukite. They had five daughters. Four of the daughters were fierce cannibals so Tefolaha had to kill them. The fifth, named Koli, did not eat people and so was allowed to live. Later Tefolaha returned to Samoa for a visit where he acquired a new wife named Puleala. With her he had three sons Tuutoki, Fiaola and Lavega. It is from these three sons that most Nanumeans trace their descent.
Tefolaha gave to his sons by Puleala various responsibilities and privileges which they in turn passed on to their children. Tuutoki was given the task of cutting up fish offered to the chief by his people. His descendants are called Kau o te Nifo (the 'dividers'). Fiaola was given the task of passing food to the chief. His descendants are called Kau o te Tufa (the 'distributors'). The youngest son Lavega was given a much greater task. He was to guard and protect his father, the chief, on his journeys at sea and on land and to carry out his orders. It is said that he was given power to alter the directions of the wind so that the chief's journey could be safely completed.
So well did Lavega perform his duties that eventually he was appointed aliki by his father. Moreover all subsequent aliki claimed descent from him. Thus, one of the two aliki clans which traditionally ruled the island, traces its descent back to him through a notable ancestor named Teilo. Teilo had a half brother Tepaa from which the second clan claims descent.
Captain Davis visited Nanumea on 27th July 1892. He recorded the name of the chief as Vaitoro and the name of the trader as Edmund A. Duffy an Englishman trading for Henderson and Macfarlane. He also recorded the population of Nanumea as 690.