Îles de la Société (French) / Tōtaiete mā (Tahitian)
|Major islands||Tahiti, Moorea, Raiatea, Bora Bora, Huahine|
|Area||1,590 km2 (610 sq mi)|
|Highest elevation||2,241 m (7352 ft)|
|Highest point||Mont Orohena|
|Largest settlement||Papeete (pop. 26,925 )|
|Pop. density||148/km2 (383/sq mi)|
The Society Islands (French : Îles de la Société, officially Archipel de la Société; Tahitian : Tōtaiete mā) are an archipelago located in the South Pacific Ocean. Politically, they are part of French Polynesia, an overseas country of the French Republic. Geographically, they form part of Polynesia.
The archipelago is believed to have been named by Captain James Cook during his first voyage in 1769, supposedly in honour of the Royal Society, the sponsor of the first British scientific survey of the islands; however, Cook wrote in his journal that he called the islands Society "as they lay contiguous to one another."
The first Polynesians are understood to have arrived on these islands around 1000 AD.
The islanders explain their origins in term of a myth. The feathered god Ta'aroa lay in his shell. He called out but no-one answered, so he went back into his shell, where he stayed for aeons. When he came out he changed his body into the multi-layered dome of the sky. Other parts of his body he transformed into Papa-fenua, the earth. Other parts he made into Te Tuma, the ata, or shadow of his phallus. Ta'aroa said, "Cast your eyes on my phallus. Gaze upon it and insert it in the earth." He came down to earth at "Opoa in Havai'i" (now Ra'iatea), one of the most sacred places in the Society Islands. Other gods were created, and these ran directly into the time of the people. The high chiefs or ari'i rahi were descendants from the gods, reckoned to be forty generation previously. In their presence commoners showed respect by stripping to the waist. The high chiefs erected marae as places of worship.
In the generations before Europeans arrived, a cult called 'Oro-maro-'ura developed: the cult of the red-feathered girdle. This became a tangible symbol of the chief's power. Key followers of the 'Oro cult were the 'arioi, who lived separately from the common people. They wore scented flowers and adorned themselves with scents and scarlet-dyed cloth. The head of each 'arioi group was heavily tattooed from ankle to thigh and known as a blackleg. Both male and female blacklegs were a privileged group but they were forbidden to have children. Their babies were all killed at birth. They received and gave lavish presents. They had a wide range of artistic skills and could be priests, navigators and lore specialists. Only good-looking men or women could become 'arioi. They played a crucial role in ceremonies associated with birth, deaths and marriage. : 23–28
In 1767 HMS Dolphin, sailing under Captain Samuel Wallis, landed on Tahiti. The captain and crew were quite sick with scurvy on arrival and were keen to obtain fresh food. Europeans quickly found that the islanders were desperate to obtain iron, which was prized for use in woodworking and as fish-hooks. The sailors found that young women and girls were eager to exchange sex for a nail.
The islanders were delighted at the abundance of iron on the ship and tried to board the ship in search of iron. Wallis reported that he shot cannon to maintain control of his vessel and the iron on board. : 39–47
Louis de Bougainville, a French nobleman, sailor and soldier, left France on his circumnavigation of the globe in 1766. : 90–96By the time he reached the Society islands in 1768, his crew was stricken with scurvy. Despite the crew being twice as numerous as that of the Dolphin, the islanders had sufficient food to trade their surplus for axes, knives and other iron goods.
James Cook arrived in Tahiti in April 1769.
Between 1772 and 1775, the viceroy of Peru, the Spaniard Manuel Amat y Juniet, organized three expeditions to the Society Islands. Having news of James Cook's expedition and fearing a British colonization of the island, he ordered a first expedition under the command of the Spanish sailor Domingo de Bonechea, with Tomás Gayangos as assistant, aboard the frigate "Águila". In the second expedition (1774-1775), Domingo de Bonechea and José Andía y Varela, aboard the ships "Águila"and "Júpiter", recognized or discovered a dozen islands between the archipelagos of Tuamotu and the Austral Islands, and established a mission in Tahiti, which lasted only a couple of years. Domingo de Bonechea, whose health was weakened, died during this expedition.
The islands became a French protectorate in 1843 and a colony in 1880 under the name of French Establishments of Oceania (Établissements Français d'Océanie, EFO).
The islands are divided, both geographically and administratively, into two groups:
They have a population of 275,918 inhabitants (as of 2017 [update] ). They cover a land area of 1,590 square kilometres (610 sq mi). The Society Islands are a tropical South Sea archipelago of volcanic origin. They represent the most economically important of the five archipelagos of French Polynesia. The highest point is Mount Orohena, which reaches 2,241 meters, located on the island of Tahiti.
The population of the islands is concentrated in the coastal regions and becomes increasingly sparse towards the mountainous center of the islands. The main island of Tahiti (Îles du Vent), where 50% of the inhabitants live, is also home to the capital of French Polynesia, the city of Papeete.
The tropical forests of French Polynesia are home to a great variety of rare animals and plants.
Above all, the islands are known for their olfactory landscape. The Tahitian tiaré ( Gardenia taitensis ), which blooms exclusively on the Society Islands, is one of the most fragrant of all flowers and is now protected.
The atolls surrounding the islands are covered with numerous corals, around which butterfly and clown fish frolic. Manta rays also reside here.
However, part of the underwater world of French Polynesia has been affected by nuclear tests conducted by the French government between 1966 and 1968.
The climate of the islands varies between tropical and subtropical due to their size. The heat and very high humidity, together with the islands' fertile volcanic soils, have created dense, mostly inaccessible tropical forests. There are two seasons: a warm one, which lasts from November to March, and a cooler one, from April to October.
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Most of the population of the Society Islands profess Christianity including various Protestant Christian denominations and the Catholic Church. The Protestants arrived with the first English explorers, while the Catholics settled in the area first with the arrival of the Spanish and permanently with the beginning of the French colonization of the region, which was consolidated with the establishment of a protectorate over the islands. By 1774 the Spanish had settled in the region briefly and installed a large cross that they brought from their colonies in Peru.
In January 1775 the priest Fray Jerónimo Clota celebrated the first Catholic mass on the islands.The Spanish did not remain in the area due to the continuing uprisings in other of their colonies.
Queen Pōmare IV expelled French Catholic missionaries from her kingdom in 1836 and provoked the annoyance of France. Between 1838 and 1842, French naval commander Abel Aubert du Petit-Thouars responded to French complaints and forced the queen and Tahitian chiefs to cede Tahiti as a French protectorate. In the 1880s France formally annexed the islands.
Today the Catholic Church owns at least 45 religious buildings in the area, all under the ecclesiastical responsibility of the Metropolitan Archdiocese of Papeete (Archidiocese of Papeete or Archidioecesis Papeetensis)with headquarters on the island of Tahiti. The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception (Cathédrale Notre-Dame de l'Immaculée Conception) stands out on the island.
On each island the religious situation is different. On Bora Bora, for example, there are more Protestant Christians than Catholic Christians,as a result of the fact that the English arrived there before the French, however, both groups now regularly perform ecumenical Christian acts and live together.
Each of the Society Islands has a small airport. Faa'a International Airport is located in Tahiti and is the largest airport in the Society Islands.
French Polynesia is an overseas collectivity of France and its sole overseas country. It comprises 121 geographically dispersed islands and atolls stretching over more than 2,000 kilometres (1,200 mi) in the South Pacific Ocean. The total land area of French Polynesia is 3,521 square kilometres (1,359 sq mi), with a population of 299,356.
Tahiti is the largest island of the Windward group of the Society Islands in French Polynesia. It is located in the central part of the Pacific Ocean, with the nearest major landmass being Australia. Divided into two parts, Tahiti Nui and Tahiti Iti, the island was formed from volcanic activity; it is high and mountainous with surrounding coral reefs. Its population was 189,517 in 2017, making it by far the most populous island of French Polynesia and accounting for 68.7% of its total population.
The Marquesas Islands are a group of volcanic islands in French Polynesia, an overseas collectivity of France in the southern Pacific Ocean. Their highest point is the peak of Mount Oave on Ua Pou island, at 1,230 m (4,035 ft) above sea level.
The Tuamotu Archipelago or the Tuamotu Islands are a French Polynesian chain of just under 80 islands and atolls in the southern Pacific Ocean. They constitute the largest chain of atolls in the world, extending over an area roughly the size of Western Europe. Their combined land area is 850 square kilometres. This archipelago's major islands are Anaa, Fakarava, Hao and Makemo.
Pōmare IV, more properly ʻAimata Pōmare IV Vahine-o-Punuateraʻitua, was the Queen of Tahiti between 1827 and 1877. She was the fourth monarch of the Kingdom of Tahiti.
Raiatea is the second largest of the Society Islands, after Tahiti, in French Polynesia. The island is widely regarded as the "centre" of the eastern islands in ancient Polynesia and it is likely that the organised migrations to the Hawaiian Islands, New Zealand and other parts of East Polynesia started at Raiatea.
Taha’a is an island located among the western group, the Leeward Islands, of the Society Islands in French Polynesia, an overseas territory of France in the Pacific Ocean. The islands of Taha’a and neighboring Raiatea to the immediate south are enclosed by the same coral reef, and they may once have been a single island. At the 2017 census it had a population of 5,234. The island has an area of 90 square kilometres. Mount Ohiri is the highest mountain on the island standing at 590 metres (1,940 ft) above sea level. It is also known as the "Vanilla Island" and produces pearls of exceptional quality.
The Austral Islands are the southernmost group of islands in French Polynesia, an overseas country of the French Republic in the South Pacific. Geographically, they consist of two separate archipelagos, namely in the northwest the Tupua'i islands consisting of the Îles Maria, Rimatara, Rūrutu, Tupua'i Island proper and Ra'ivāvae, and in the southeast the Bass Islands composed of the main island of Rapa Iti and the small Marotiri. Inhabitants of the islands are known for their pandanus fiber weaving skills. The islands of Maria and Marotiri are not suitable for sustained habitation. Several of the islands have uninhabited islets or rocks off their coastlines. Austral Islands' population is 6,965 on almost 150 km2 (58 sq mi). The capital of the Austral Islands administrative subdivision is Tupua'i.
The Gambier Islands are an archipelago in French Polynesia, located at the southeast terminus of the Tuamotu archipelago. They cover an area of 27.8 km2 or 10.7 sq mi, and are made up of the Mangareva Islands, a group of high islands remnants of a caldera along with islets on the surrounding fringing reef, and the uninhabited Temoe atoll, which is located 45 km south-east of the Mangareva Islands. The Gambiers are generally considered a separate island group from Tuamotu both because their culture and language (Mangarevan) are much more closely related to those of the Marquesas Islands, and because, while the Tuamotus comprise several chains of coral atolls, the Mangareva Islands are of volcanic origin with central high islands.
Air Tahiti is a French airline company which operates in French Polynesia, France. Its main hub is Faa'a International Airport. It is the largest private employer in French Polynesia.
The Windward Islands are the eastern group of the Society Islands in French Polynesia, an overseas collectivity of France in the southern Pacific Ocean. These islands were also previously named the Georgian Islands in honour of King George III of the United Kingdom.
The Leeward Islands are the western part of the Society Islands in French Polynesia, an overseas collectivity of France in the South Pacific. They lie south of the Line Islands, east of the Cooks and north of the Austral Islands. Their area is 395 km2 and their population is over 33,000.
The Assembly of French Polynesia is the unicameral legislature of French Polynesia, an overseas country of the French Republic. It is located at Place Tarahoi in Papeete, Tahiti. It was established in its current form in 1996 although a Tahitian Assembly was first created in 1824. It consists of 57 members who are elected by popular vote for five years; the electoral system is based upon proportional representation in six multi-seat constituencies. Every constituency is represented by at least three representatives. Since 2001, the parity bill binds that the number of women matches the number of men elected to the Assembly.
Faaa is a commune in the suburbs of Papeete in French Polynesia, an overseas country of France in the Pacific Ocean. Faaa is located on the island of Tahiti, in the administrative subdivision of the Windward Islands, themselves part of the Society Islands. At the 2017 census Faaa had a population of 29,506, making it the most populous commune on Tahiti and in French Polynesia. Faaa has many mountains inland that can reach 1,500 m (5,000 ft). Mount Marau is an extinct volcano in the inland limits and can be seen from nearby Moorea. The area of Faaa is 9 m (30 ft) above mean sea level on average.
Uturoa is a commune located in Raiatea, the largest island of the Îles Sous le Vent in French Polynesia. It is situated in between the administrative subdivision of Leeward Islands and the main port of the island of Raiatea. According to the 2017 census, Uturoa has a population of 3,778 individuals. The commune spans approximately 120 miles (193.121 km) northwest of Papeete, the capital of French Polynesia.
This page list topics related to French Polynesia.
The Pōmare Dynasty was the reigning family of the Kingdom of Tahiti between the unification of the islands by Pōmare I in 1788 and Pōmare V's cession of the kingdom to France in 1880. Their influence once spanned most of the Society Islands, the Austral Islands and the Tuamotu Archipelago.
Prince Teriʻitua Tuavira Joinville Pōmare, also known as Prince Joinville, was a member of the royal family of Tahiti, the Pōmare dynasty, who lived in the time of the French protectorate of the Kingdom of Tahiti (1842–1880).
Tapoa II (1806–1861) was the king of the Tahitian island of Bora Bora from 1831 to 1861.
The annexation of the Leeward Islands or the Leewards War was a series of diplomatic and armed conflicts between the French Third Republic and the native kingdoms of Raiatea-Tahaa, Huahine and Bora Bora, which resulted in the conquest of the Leeward Islands, in the South Pacific archipelago of the Society Islands in modern-day French Polynesia.