In 1910, it was decided to administer the islands directly from the Gilbert and Ellice Islands Protectorate. For the first time, a permanent British resident was sent, who resided on Atafu. His official title was Assistant Magistrate.
The British government officially annexed Tokelau, as the Union Islands, to the Gilbert and Ellice Islands colony in 1916. Administration was from Funafuti in the Ellice (Tuvalu) islands, but was very difficult to manage due to the great distance.
In 1921 New Zealand was given a League of Nations mandate over Samoa, which was under German control until after World War I. This led to the Union Islands being transferred to New Zealand control, with convenient administration from Samoa. By the Tokelau Act of 1948, full sovereignty over Tokelau was transferred to New Zealand.
Since 2004, the Tokelauans have been developing institutions and patterns of self-government as Tokelau moves towards free association with New Zealand, similarly to Niue and the Cook Islands.
In the draft constitution of Tokelau subject to the Tokelauan self-determination referendum in 2006, Olohega is claimed as part of Tokelau, even though the claim was surrendered in the 1979 treaty.
Before the establishment of official postal services in the Gilbert and Ellice Islands Protectorate in early 1911, mail transport to and from the Tokelau Islands was in trust of the officers of visiting vessels for transporting to the nearest port of call with a post office. Most mail was generated by the various church missions and traders, and surviving postal history items are very rare.
Postal services were officially established in the Protectorate on January 1, 1911. Atafu was one of the five islands to initially receive cancellation devices and stamps. The earliest dated cancel on stamps is in manuscript, February 27, 1911 on single Gilbert and Ellice Protectorate overprinted stamps. However, it is unclear why hand written cancellations would be used - surely if the stamps arrived in Atafu, the cancellation devices would have too. The earliest known date of the first rubber postmark is April 19, 1911, also on Protectorate overprinted stamps. Although it was used at Atafu, this cancel was inscribed "Union Islands".
In 1925, special cancels inscribed for use at all three islands were supplied - Atafu, Fakaofo (spelled Fakaafo), and Nukunonu (spelled Nukunono). However, these were in use for less than a year, as the administration was transfered to New Zealand (through Western Samoa) in June 1926.
Western Samoa stamps were used on all three islands from 1926 to 1948. Cancellation devices were also issued for all three islands. Fakaofo was spelled as it is currently, while Nukunonu continued to be spelled Nukunono.
In 1948, when full soverignty over the Union Islands was granted to New Zealand by Great Britain, the territory was renamed Tokelau Islands and new stamps and postmarks were issued inscribed as such. In the late 1960's, the cancellation device of Nukunonu was changed to it's current spelling from Nukunono.