According to tradition Valoa from Vaitupu discovered Nukulaelae while on a fishing trip. He did not stay long but returned to Vaitupu to obtain coconut seedlings, subsequently making many trips from Vaitupu to Nukulaelae each time bringing more nuts to plant. After about eight years when the trees began to bear fruit Valoa asked the aliki of Vaitupu for permission to settle on Nukulaelae. This was granted so Valoa came to live permanently on Nukulaelae and claimed the land as his own.
Valoa was accompanied to Nukulaelae by his two sons Moeva and Katuli and a daughter named Teaalo. Soon after the two boys were killed in battle, but Teaalo was spared and bore children. Others who came with Valoa from Vaitupu included his servants Vave and Taupo. After his death these two succeeded him as aliki and ruled the island jointly.
Vave and Taupo each had one son named Noa and Kaituloa, respectively. These two succeeded their fathers as aliki but when they in turn died the position of aliki ceased to be hereditary. Instead, their successors were chosen by the community, although one was still selected from among the descendants of Vave and the other from the family of Taupo. In 1860 there were about 300 people living on Nukulaelae however in 1863 two-thirds of the people were kidnapped by Peruvian slavers. It is said that when the vessel arrived the crew members went ashore and persuaded the islanders to come aboard for a feast. They were thought to be taken away to work in the phosphate mines in the Chincha Islands off the coast of Peru. This turned out to be incorrect as they were employed primarily as domestics in hotels, hospitals and private homes. None of them ever returned.
Captain Davis visited Nukulaelae on the 3rd August 1892. He gave the name of the Chiefs as Malaki and Lapanna. There were no traders on the island and the native population was 95.
Tuvalu and the Blackbirders