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French Polynesia

Overseas country of France consisting of approximately 105 island s in the S Pacific Ocean. The five main groups are: the Gambier Island s, Marquesas Island s, Society Island s, Tuamotu Island s, and Tubuai, or Austral, Island s. Uninhabited Clipperton Island , 670 mi SW of Mexico, is administratively part of the territory. Tahiti is the most important island , and the capital of the territory is Papeete on Tahiti. Some of the island s are volcanic, while others are coral atolls. The inhabitants are mainly Polynesian, and tropical fruits and copra are the main products. European discovery of the island groups and individual island s extended over some 200 years, beginning with the Spanish Alvaro de Mendana de Neira, who reached part of the Marquesas group in 1595, and Pedro Fernand es de Queiros, a Portuguese pilot in Spanish service, who reached the Tuamotu group in 1606. The Society Island s were discovered by an Englishman, Samuel Wallis, in 1767 but were claimed the next year by the French explorer, Louis de Bougainville. Captain James Cook named them the Society Island s in 1769 after the Royal Society that had sponsored his voyage. The Gambier and Tubuai island s were first visited by the British.

The French laid claim to, and annexed, the island groups between 1842 and 1881. In 1903 all the groups were placed under a single administration as French Oceania, or Etablissements francais de l’Oceanie. In 1946 they were reorganized as an overseas territory and renamed French Polynesia. By a vote taken in 1957 the inhabitants chose to remain a part of the French Community with representation in the French parliament. Nuclear tests were carried out in the island s by France from 1966 to 1968. Many in the island s wanted more independence from France, and limited autonomy was awarded in 1984. In 2004, the territory became a French overseas territory.

France granted French Polynesia more autonomy in most local affairs and regional relations, but has retained control of law enforcement, defense, and the money supply.


  

French Polynesia in photos

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