French Polynesia History
Source: US State Department
This area of the Pacific ocean is now called the “Polynesian Triangle” and includes Hawaii to the north, Easter Island to the southeast, and New Zealand to the southwest. As a result of these migrations, the native Hawaiians and the Maoris of New Zealand all originate from common ancestors and speak a similar language collectively known as Maohi
The era of European exploration began in the 1500s when “ships without outriggers” began to arrive. In 1521, Magellan spotted the atoll of Pukapuka in what is now the Tuamotu Atolls and, in 1595, the Spanish explorer Mendana visited Fatu Hiva Island in the Marquesas. More than 170 years later, Captain Samuel Wallis and the H.M.S. Dolphin was the first to visit the island of Tahiti during his journey to discover terra australis incognita, a mythical landmass below the equator thought to balance the northern hemisphere. Wallis named the island of Tahiti “King George III Island” and claimed it for England. Soon after and unaware of Wallis’ arrival, French navigator Louis-Antoine de Bougainville, landed on the opposite side of Tahiti and claimed it for the King of France.
European fascination with the islands grew as news spread of both the mutiny of Capt. William Bligh’s crew aboard the H.M.S. Bounty and of tales of tropical beauty and the warm nature of the Tahitian people. Knowledge of Tahiti and the South Pacific continued to grow as Capt. James Cook brought back thousands of illustrations of Tahitian flora and fauna as well as the first map of the islands of the Pacific. In the 1800s, the arrival of whalers, British missionaries, and French military expeditions forever changed the way of life on Tahiti and created a French-British rivalry for control of the islands. The Pomare Dynasty ruled Tahiti until 1847 when Queen Pomare finally accepted French protection of the islands of Tahiti and Moorea.
In 1880, following the queen’s death, King Pomare V was persuaded to cede Tahiti and most of its dependencies to France. In 1957, all the islands of Tahiti were reconstituted as the overseas French territory called French Polynesia. Since 1984, a statue of autonomy was implemented and, in 1998, French Polynesia became an overseas country with greater self-governing powers through their own Assembly and President. With these powers, the country is now negotiating international agreements with foreign states in matters of commerce and investment.
NOTE: The information regarding French Polynesia on this page is re-published from Tahiti Tourism, an agency of the government of France. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of French Polynesia History information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about French Polynesia History should be addressed to the Tahiti Tourism.