Tahiti (/təˈhiːti/; French pronunciation: [ta.iti];
previously also known as Otaheite (obsolete) is the largest island in
the Windward group of French Polynesia. The island is located in the
archipelago of the
Society Islands in the central Southern Pacific
Ocean, and is divided into two parts: the bigger, northwestern part,
Tahiti Nui, and the smaller, southeastern part,
Tahiti Iti. The island
was formed from volcanic activity and is high and mountainous with
surrounding coral reefs. The population is 189,517 inhabitants (2017
census), making it the most populous island of
French Polynesia and
accounting for 68.7% of its total population.
Tahiti is the economic, cultural and political centre of French
Polynesia, an overseas collectivity (sometimes referred to as an
overseas country) of France. The capital of French Polynesia, Papeete,
is located on the northwest coast of Tahiti. The only international
airport in the region, Fa'a'ā International Airport, is on Tahiti
Tahiti was originally settled by
Polynesians between 300 and
800 CE. They represent about 70% of the island's population, with
the rest made up of Europeans, Chinese and those of mixed heritage.
The island was part of the
Kingdom of Tahiti
Kingdom of Tahiti until its annexation by
France in 1880, when it was proclaimed a colony of France, and the
inhabitants became French citizens. French is the only official
language, although the
Tahitian language (Reo Tahiti) is widely
2.1 Prehistoric colonisation of Tahiti
2.2 Civilisation before the arrival of the Europeans
2.3 First European visits
2.4 British influence and the rise of the Pōmare
2.4.1 Mutineers of the Bounty
2.4.2 Landings of the whalers
2.4.3 Arrival of the missionaries
2.5 French protectorate and the end of the Pōmare kingdom
2.6 Tahitian War of independence (1844–47)
2.7 Twentieth century to present
4.1 Historical population
5 Administrative divisions
5.1 Communes of Tahiti
6.1 Energy and electricity
10 See also
13 Further reading
14 External links
Tahiti from space.
Tahiti is the highest and largest island in
French Polynesia lying
Moorea island. It is located 4,400 kilometres (2,376 nautical
miles) south of Hawaii, 7,900 km (4,266 nmi) from Chile, and
5,700 km (3,078 nmi) from Australia.
The island is 45 km (28 mi) across at its widest point and
covers an area of 1,045 km2 (403 sq mi). The highest
Mont Orohena (Mou'a 'Orohena) (2,241 m (7,352 ft)).
Mount Roonui, or
Mount Ronui (Mou'a Rōnui), in the southeast rises to
1,332 m (4,370 ft). The island consists of two roughly round
portions centred on volcanic mountains and connected by a short
isthmus named after the small town of Taravao which is situated
The northwestern portion is known as
Tahiti Nui ("big Tahiti"), while
the much smaller southeastern portion is known as
Tahiti Iti ("small
Tahiti") or Tai'arapū.
Tahiti Nui is heavily populated along the
coast, especially around the capital, Papeete.
The interior of
Tahiti Nui is almost entirely uninhabited. Tahiti
Iti has remained isolated, as its southeastern half (Te Pari) is
accessible only to those travelling by boat or on foot. The rest of
the island is encircled by a main road which cuts between the
mountains and the sea.
A scenic and winding interior road climbs past dairy farms and citrus
groves with panoramic views. Tahiti's landscape features lush
rainforests and many rivers and waterfalls, including the Papenoo
River on the north side, and the Fautaua Falls near Papeete.
Diadem Mountain at Sunset, Tahiti, John LaFarge, c. 1891,
The Society archipelago is a hotspot volcanic chain consisting of ten
islands and atolls. The chain is oriented along the N. 65° W.
direction, parallel to the movement of the Pacific Plate. Due to the
plate movement over the Society hotspot, the age of the islands
decreases from 5 Ma at
Maupiti to 0 Ma at Mehetia, where
the inferred current location of the hotspot as evidenced by recent
seismic activity. Maupiti, the oldest island in the chain, is a highly
eroded shield volcano with at least 12 thin aa flows, which
accumulated fairly rapidly between 4.79 and 4.05 Ma.
Bora Bora is
another highly eroded shield volcano consisting of basaltic lavas
accumulated between 3.83 and 3.1 Ma. The lavas are intersected by
Tahaa consists of shield-stage basalt with an age
of 3.39 Ma, followed by additional eruptions 1.2 Ma later. Raiatea
consists of shield-stage basalt followed by post-shield trachytic lava
flows, all occurring from 2.75 to 2.29 Ma.
Huahine consists of two
coalesced basalt shield volcanoes,
Huahine Nui and
Huahine Iti, with
several flows followed by post-shield trachyphonolitic lava domes from
3.08 to 2.06 Ma.
Moorea consists of at least 16 flows of shield-stage
basalt and post-shield lavas from 2.15 to 1.36 Ma.
Tahiti consists of
two basalt shield volcanoes,
Tahiti Nui and
Tahiti Iti, with an age
range of 1.67 to 0.25 Ma.
November to April is the wet season, the wettest month of which is
January with 13.2 in (340 mm) of rain in Papeetē. August is
the driest with 1.9 inches (48 millimetres).
The average temperature ranges between 21 and 31 °C (70 and
88 °F), with little seasonal variation. The lowest and highest
temperatures recorded in
Papeete are 16 and 34 °C (61 and
93 °F), respectively.
See also: Kingdom of Tahiti
Prehistoric colonisation of Tahiti
Tahitians arrived from Western Polynesia in about
200 BCE, after a long migration from South East Asia or
Indonesia, via the Fijian, Samoan and Tongan Archipelagos. This
hypothesis of an emigration from Southeast Asia is supported by a
number of linguistic, biological and archaeological proofs. For
example, the languages of Fiji and Polynesia all belong to the same
Oceanic sub-group, Fijian-Polynesian, which itself forms part of the
great family of the Austronesian Languages.
This emigration, across several hundred kilometres of ocean, was made
possible by using outrigger canoes that were up to twenty or thirty
meters long and could transport families as well as domestic animals.
In 1769, for instance,
James Cook mentions a great traditional ship
Tahiti that was 33 m (108 ft) long, and could be
propelled by sail or paddles. In 2010, an expedition on a simple
outrigger canoe with a sail retraced the route back from
Ra'iātea Mountain. The mummies of Tahitian rulers were
formerly deposited on this mountain, traditionally considered sacred
Civilisation before the arrival of the Europeans
Before the arrival of the Europeans the island was divided into
different chiefdoms, very precise territories dominated by a single
clan. These chiefdoms were linked to each other by allegiances based
on the blood ties of their leaders and on their power in war. The most
important clan on the island was the Teva, whose territory extended
from the peninsula in the south of
Tahiti Nui. The Teva Clan was
composed of the Teva i Uta (Teva of the Interior) and the Teva i Tai
(Teva of the Sea), and was led by Amo and Purea.
Captain Cook witnessed the ceremony of human sacrifice in Tahiti,
A clan was composed of a chief (ari'i rahi), nobles (ari'i) and
under-chiefs ( 'Īato'ai). The ari'i, considered descendants of the
Polynesian gods, were full of mana (spiritual power). They
traditionally wore belts of red feathers, symbols of their power. The
chief of the clan did not have absolute power. Councils or general
assemblies had to be called composed of the ari'i and the 'Īato'ai,
especially in case of war.
Each district or clan was organised around their marae, or stone
Anne Salmond quotes John Orsmond, an early missionary, as
stating, "Marae were the sanctity and glory of the land, they were the
pride of the people of these islands." This was especially true for
the ancestral and national marae associated with the royal line. "It
was the basis of royalty; It awakened the gods; It fixed the red
feather girdle of the high chiefs.":23,26–27
'Oro were called ariori, and each district in
an ariori lodge led by the avae parae, black leg. These leaders had
legs tattooed from thigh to heel. The first
'Oro lodge was established
around 1720 by Mahi, a representative of the high priest of
Taputapuatea marae and Tamatoa I, the high chief of Ra'iatea. The
'Oro marae was established at Tautira.
Around 1750, war broke out between Atehuru and Papara, forcing
Te'e'eva, the daughter of the
Papara chief, to flee to Raiatea. She
then married Tamatoa I's eldest son, Ari'ima'o, from which their son
Mau'a was born. When
Borabora warriors, led by Puni, invaded Raiatea
in 1763, both Mau'a and the Taputapuatea priest Tupaia, were forced to
flee to Tahiti, where the new
Papara chief Amo and his wife
them refuge. This led to the building of the Mahaiatea marae at
Papara. However, the marriage of Amo and Purea, and their status as
black leg ariori, ended with the birth of their son Teri'irere. Tupaia
then became Purea's lover. Tupaia would eventually sail with Captain
Cook on the Endeavor, while Mau'a would sail with Lt. Gayangos on the
First European visits
The meeting between Wallis and Oberea
Portuguese navigator Pedro Fernandes de Queirós, serving the Spanish
Crown in an expedition to Terra Australis, was perhaps the first
European to set eyes on the island of Tahiti. He sighted an inhabited
island on 10 February 1606 which he called Sagitaria (or
Sagittaria). However, whether the island that he saw was actually
Tahiti or not has not been fully ascertained. It has been suggested
that he actually saw the island of
Rekareka to the south-east of
Tahiti. According to other authors the first European to arrive in
Tahiti was Spanish explorer Juan Fernández in his expedition of
The first European to have visited
Tahiti according to existing
records was lieutenant Samuel Wallis, who was circumnavigating the
globe in HMS Dolphin, sighting the island on 18 June 1767, and
eventually harbouring in
Matavai Bay. This bay was situated on the
territory of the chiefdom of Pare-Arue, governed by Tu
(Tu-nui-e-a'a-i-te-Atua) and his regent Tutaha, and the chiefdom of
Ha'apape, governed by Amo and his wife "Oberea" (Purea). Wallis named
the island King George's Island. The first contacts were difficult,
since on the 24 and 26 June 1767, Tahitian warriors in canoes
showed aggression towards the British, hurling stones from their
slings. In retaliation, the British sailors opened fire on the
warriors in the canoes and on the hills. In reaction to this powerful
Tahitians laid down peace offerings for the
British. Following this episode,
Samuel Wallis was able to
establish cordial relations with the female chieftain "Oberea "
(Purea) and remained on the island until 27 July
Matavai Bay, painted by William Hodges, member of an expedition led by
On 2 April 1768, it was the turn of Louis-Antoine de Bougainville,
aboard the Boudeuse and Etoile on the first French circumnavigation,
to sight Tahiti. On 5 April, he anchored off Hitiaa O Te Ra, and was
welcomed by its chief Reti. Bougainville was also visited by Tutaha.
Bougainville only stayed about ten days on the island, which he called
"Nouvelle-Cythère ", or "New Cythera (the island of Aphrodite)",
because of the warm welcome he had received, the sweetness of the
Tahitian customs, calling it a "sailor's Paradise." Ahutoru
accompanied the French on the return voyage, becoming the first
Tahitian to sail on a European vessel.:93–109 The account
Philibert Commerson gave of his port of call would
contribute to the creation of the myth of a Polynesian paradise and
nourished the theme of the noble savage, so dear to Jean-Jacques
Rousseau, which was very much in fashion.:116–118 Between this
date right until the end of the 18th century, the name of the island
was spelled phonetically "Taïti". Beginning in the 19th century, the
Tahitian orthography "Tahiti" became normal usage in French and
In between the visits of Bougainville and Cook, on Dec. 1768, a war of
succession amongst the Tahiti's clans took place for who would assume
the role of paramount chief. Tutaha's Pare-'Arue army allied with
Vehiatua's Tai'arapu army, Pohuetea's
Puna'auia army, To'ofa's Paea
army, and Tepau-i-ahura'i (Tepau) of Fa'a'a, to defeat Amo and Purea
in Papara. The warriors, women and children of
Papara were massacred,
while their houses, gardens, crops and livestock destroyed. Even the
Mahaiatea marae was ransacked, while Amo, Purea, Tupaia and Teri'irere
fled into the mountains. Vehiatua built a wall of skulls
(Te-ahu-upo'o) at his Tai'arapu marae from his war
In July 1768, Captain
James Cook was commissioned by the Royal Society
and on orders from the
Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty
Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty to observe
the transit of Venus across the sun, a phenomenon that would be
Tahiti on 3 June 1769. He arrived in Tahiti's Matavai
Bay, commanding the
HMS Endeavour on 12 April 1769.:141 On 14
April, Cook met with Tutaha and Tepau.:144 On 15 April, Cook
picked the site for a fortified camp at
Point Venus along with Banks,
Parkinson, Daniel Solander, to protect Charles Green's
observatory.:147 The length of stay enabled them to undertake for
the first time real ethnographic and scientific observations of the
island. Assisted by the botanist Joseph Banks, and by the artist
Sydney Parkinson, Cook gathered valuable information on the fauna and
flora, as well as the native society, language and customs, including
the proper name of the island, 'Otaheite'. On 28 April, Cook met Purea
and Tupaia, and Tupaia befriended Banks following the transit. On 21
June, Amo visited Cook, and then on 25 June, Pohuetea visited,
signifying another chief seeking to ally himself with the
Cook and Banks circumnavigated the island from 26 June to 1 July. On
the exploration, they met Ahio, chief of Ha'apaiano'o or Papenoo,
Rita, chief of Hitia'a, Pahairro, chief of Pueu, Vehiatua, chief of
Tautra, Matahiapo, chief of Teahupo'o, Tutea, chief of Vaira'o, and
Moe, chief of Afa'Ahiti. In Papara, guided by Tupaia, they
investigated the ruins of Mahaiatea marae, an impressive structure
containing a stone pyramid or ahu, measuring 44 feet high, 267 feet
long and 87 feet wide. Cook and the Endeavour departed
Tahiti on 13
July 1769, taking Raiatean navigator Tupaia along for his geographic
knowledge of the islands.:149,186–202,205
Cook estimated the population to be 200,000 including all the nearby
islands in the chain.:308 This estimate was later lowered to
35,000 by anthropologist Douglas L. Oliver, the foremost modern
authority on Tahiti, at the time of first European contact in
In between the visits of Cook and Bonechea, the war of succession
resumed amongst the Tahitian clans. This time Tutaha and his allies
fought Vehiatua and his. Several famous battles were fought, including
'Taora ofa'i' (shower of stones) and 'Te-tamai-i-te-tai-'ute 'ute'
(the battle of the red sea). Tutahua and Tepau were eventually killed
in battle, while Vehiatua died of old age. Vehiatua's son, Paitu,
became Vehiatua II, while Tu became paramount chief of the island,
ari'i maro 'ura.:242–244,273
The Viceroy of Peru, Manuel de Amat y Juniet, following the
instructions of the Spanish Crown, organised an expedition to settle
and colonise the island in 1772, largely to prevent other powers from
gaining a base in the Pacific from which to attack the coast of Peru,
but also to evangelise. He sent two expeditions under the command of
navigator Domingo de Bonechea, the first in 1772, aboard the Aguila.
Four Tahitians, Pautu, Tipitipia, Heiao and Tetuanui, accompanied
Boenechea on his return voyage to Peru in 1773.:236–256,325
Cook returned to
Tahiti between 15 August and 1 September 1773,
greeted by the chiefs Tai and Puhi, besides the youg ari'i Vehiatua II
and his stepfather Ti'itorea. Cook anchored in Vaitepiha Bay before
Point Venus where he met Tu, the paramount chief. Cook
picked up two passengers from
Tahiti during this trip, Porea and Ma'i,
with Hitihiti later replacing Porea when Cook stopped at Raiatea. Cook
took Hitihiti to
Tahiti on 22 April, during his return leg. Then, Cook
Tahiti on 14 May 1774.:263–279,284,290,301–312
Pautu and Tetuanui returned to
Tahiti with Bonechea aboard the Aguila
on 14 November 1774, Tipitipia and Heiao having passed away in the
interim. Bonechea died on 26 January 1775 in Tahiti, and was buried
near the Spanish mission at
Tautira Bay. Lt. Tomas Gayangos took over
command. Gayangos set sail for Peru on 27 Jan, leaving the two friars,
Father Geronimo Clota and Father Narciso Gonzalez, and Maximo
Rodriguez and Francisco Perez, in charge of the Spanish mission.
However, the Spanish mission on
Tahiti was abandoned on 12 November
1775, after Aguila's third voyage to Tahiti, when the Fathers begged
its commander, Don Cayetano de Langara, to take them back to Lima.
Some maps still bear the name Isla de Amat for Tahiti, named after
Viceroy Amat who ordered the expedition. A most notable result of
these voyages was the journal by a marine in the
Spanish Navy named
Maximo Rodriguez, which contains valuable information about the
Tahitians of the 18th century, augmented with the accounts by the
Chilean Don Jose de Andia y
During his final visit, Cook returned Ma'i to
Tahiti on 12 August
1777, after Ma'i's long visit in England. Cook also brought two Maori
from Queen Charlotte Sound, Te Weherua and Koa. Cook first harboured
in Vaitepiha Bay, where he visited Vehiatua II's funeral bier and the
prefabricated Spanish mission house. Cook also met Vehiatua III, and
inscribed on the back of the Spanish cross, Georgius tertius Rex Annis
1767, 69, 73, 74 & 77, as a counterpoint to Christus Vincit
Carolus III imperat 1774 on the front. On 23 Aug, Cook sailed for
Matavai Bay, where he met Tu, his father Teu, his mother Tetupaia, his
brothers Ari'ipaea and Vaetua, and his sisters Ari'ipaea-vahine,
Tetua-te-ahama'i, and Auo. Cook also observed a human sacrifice,
ta'ata tapu, at the 'Utu-'ai-mahurau marae, and 49 skulls from
On 29 September 1777, Cook sailed for Papeto'ai Bay on Mo'orea. Cook
met Mahine in an act of friendship on 3 Oct, though he was an enemy of
Tu. When a goat kid was stolen on 6 Oct, Cook in a rampage, ordered
the burning of houses and canoes until it was returned. Cook sailed
Huahine on 11 Oct,
Raiatea on 2 Nov, and
Borabora on 7
British influence and the rise of the Pōmare
Mutineers of the Bounty
Main article: Mutiny on the Bounty
William Bligh overseeing the transplantation of breadfruit trees from
On 26 October 1788, HMS Bounty, under the command of Captain William
Bligh, landed in
Tahiti with the mission of carrying Tahitian
breadfruit trees (Tahitian: 'uru) to the Caribbean. Sir Joseph Banks,
the botanist from James Cook's first expedition, had concluded that
this plant would be ideal to feed the African slaves working in the
Caribbean plantations at very little cost. The crew remained in Tahiti
for about five months, the time needed to transplant the seedlings of
the trees. Three weeks after leaving Tahiti, on 28 April 1789, the
crew mutinied on the initiative of Fletcher Christian. The mutineers
seized the ship and set the captain and most of those members of the
crew who remained loyal to him adrift in a ship's boat. A group of
mutineers then went back to settle in Tahiti.
Although various explorers had refused to get involved in tribal
conflicts, the mutineers from the Bounty offered their services as
mercenaries and furnished arms to the family which became the Pōmare
Dynasty. The chief Tū knew how to use their presence in the harbours
favoured by sailors to his advantage. As a result of his alliance with
the mutineers, he succeeded in considerably increasing his supremacy
over the island of Tahiti.
In about 1790, the ambitious chief Tū took the title of king and gave
himself the name Pōmare. Captain Bligh explains that this name was a
homage to his eldest daughter Teriinavahoroa, who had died of
tuberculosis, "an illness that made her cough (mare) a lot, especially
at night (pō)". Thus he became Pōmare I, founding the Pōmare
Dynasty and his lineage would be the first to unify
Tahiti from 1788
to 1791. He and his descendants founded and expanded Tahitian
influence to all of the lands that now constitute modern French
In 1791, HMS Pandora under Captain Edward Edwards called at
took custody of fourteen of the mutineers. Four were drowned in the
sinking of the Pandora on her homeward voyage, three were hanged, four
were acquitted, and three were pardoned.
Landings of the whalers
In the 1790s, whalers began landing at
Tahiti during their fishing
expeditions in the southern hemisphere. The arrival of these whalers,
who were subsequently joined by merchants coming from the penal
colonies in Australia, marked the first major overturning of
traditional Tahitian society. The crews introduced alcohol, arms and
illnesses into the island, and encouraged prostitution, which brought
with it venereal disease. These first exchanges with westerners had
catastrophic consequences for the Tahitian population, which shrank
rapidly, ravaged by diseases. So many
Tahitians were killed by disease
in fact that by 1797, the population was only 16,000. Later it was to
drop as low as 6,000.
Arrival of the missionaries
On 5 March 1797, representatives of the London Missionary Society
Matavai Bay (Mahina) on board Duff, with the intention of
converting the pagan native populations to Christianity. The arrival
of these missionaries marked a new turning point for the island of
Tahiti, having a lasting impact on the local culture.
The first years proved hard work for the missionaries, despite their
association with the Pōmare, the importance of whom they were aware
of thanks to the reports of earlier sailors. In 1803, upon the death
of Pōmare I, his son Vaira'atoa succeeded him and took the title of
Pomare II. He allied himself more and more with the missionaries, and
from 1803 they taught him reading and the Gospels. Furthermore, the
missionaries encouraged his wish to conquer his opponents, so that
they would only have to deal with a single political contact, enabling
them to develop Christianity in a unified country. The conversion
Pōmare II to Protestantism in 1812 marks moreover the point when
Protestantism truly took off on the island.
In about 1810,
Pōmare II married Teremo'emo'e daughter of the chief
of Raiatea, to ally himself with the chiefdoms of the Leeward Islands.
On 12 November 1815, thanks to these alliances,
Pōmare II won a
decisive battle at Fe'i Pī (Punaauia), notably against Opuhara,
the chief of the powerful clan of Teva. This victory allowed
Pōmare II to be styled Ari'i Rahi, or the king of Tahiti. It was the
first time that
Tahiti had been united under the control of a single
family. It was the end of Tahitian feudalism and the military
aristocracy, which were replaced by an absolute monarchy. At the same
time, Protestantism quickly spread, thanks to the support of Pōmare
II, and replaced the traditional beliefs. In 1816 the London
Missionary Society sent John Williams as a missionary and teacher, and
starting in 1817, the Gospels were translated into Tahitian (Reo
Maohi) and taught in the religious schools. In 1818, the minister
William Pascoe Crook founded the city of Papeete, which became the
capital of the island.
Tahitians in missionary robes
In 1819, Pōmare II, encouraged by the missionaries, introduced the
first Tahitian legal code, known under the name of the Pōmare Legal
Code, which consists of nineteen laws. The missionaries and Pōmare
II thus imposed a ban on nudity (obliging them to wear clothes
covering their whole body), banned dances and chants, described as
immodest, tattoos and costumes made of flowers.
In the 1820s, the entire population of
Tahiti converted to
Protestantism. Duperrey, who berthed in
Tahiti in May 1823, attests to
the change in Tahitian society in a letter dated 15 May 1823: "The
missionaries of the
Royal Society of London have totally changed the
morals and customs of the inhabitants. Idolatry no longer exists among
them, and they generally profess the Christian religion. The women no
longer come aboard the vessel, and even when we meet them on land they
are extremely reserved. (...) The bloody wars that these people used
to carry out and human sacrifices have no longer taken place since
When, on 7 December 1821,
Pōmare II died, his son
Pōmare III was
only eighteen months old. His uncle and the religious people therefore
supported the regency, until 2 May 1824, the date on which the
missionaries conducted his coronation, a ceremony unprecedented in
Tahiti. Taking advantage of the weakness of the Pōmare, local chiefs
won back some of their power and took the hereditary title of Tavana
(from the English word 'governor'). The missionaries also took
advantage of the situation to change the way in which powers were
arranged, and to make the Tahitian monarchy closer to the English
model of a constitutional monarchy. They therefore created the
Tahitian Legislative Assembly, which first sat on 23 February 1824.
In 1827, the young
Pōmare III suddenly died, and it was his
half-sister, 'Aimata, aged thirteen, who took the title of Pōmare IV.
The Birmingham born missionary George Pritchard, who was the acting
British consul, became her main adviser and tried to interest her in
the affairs of the kingdom. But the authority of the Queen, who was
certainly less charismatic than her father, was challenged by the
chiefs, who had won back an important part of their prerogatives since
the death of Pōmare II. The power of the Pōmare had become more
symbolic than real, time and time again Queen Pōmare, Protestant and
anglophile, sought in vain the protection of England.
Dupetit Thouars taking over
Tahiti on 9 September 1842
In November 1835
Charles Darwin visited
HMS Beagle on
her circumnavigation, captained by Robert FitzRoy. He was impressed by
what he perceived to be the positive influence the missionaries had
had on the sobriety and moral character of the population. Darwin
praised the scenery, but was not flattering towards Tahiti's Queen
Pōmare IV. Captain Fitzroy negotiated payment of compensation for an
attack on an English ship by Tahitians, which had taken place in
Queen Pōmare IV, 1813–1877
In Sept. 1839, the island was visited by the United States Exploring
Expedition. One of its members, Alfred Thomas Agate, produced a
number of sketches of Tahitian life, some of which were later
published in the United States.
French protectorate and the end of the Pōmare kingdom
Queen Pomare and her family on the verandah of Mr. Pritchard's
house, during the French Invasion of Tahiti, from the Missionary
Repository for Youth and Sunday School Missionary Magazine, 1847
In 1836, the Queen's advisor Pritchard had two French Catholic priests
François Caret and Honoré Laval. As a result, in 1838
France sent Admiral Abel Aubert Dupetit-Thouars to get reparation.
Once his mission had been completed, Admiral Du Petit-Thouars sailed
Marquesas Islands, which he annexed in 1842. Also in 1842,
a European crisis involving
Morocco escalated between France and Great
Britain, souring their relations. In August 1842, Admiral Du
Petit-Thouars returned and landed in Tahiti. He then made friends with
Tahitian chiefs who were hostile to the Pōmare family and favourable
to a French protectorate. He had them sign a request for protection in
the absence of their Queen, before then approaching her and obliging
her to ratify the terms of the treaty of protectorate. The treaty had
not even been ratified by France itself when Jacques-Antoine
Moerenhout was named royal commissaire alongside Queen Pōmare.
Within the framework of this treaty, France recognised the sovereignty
of the Tahitian state. The Queen was responsible for internal affairs,
while France would deal with foreign relations and assure the defence
of Tahiti, as well as maintain order on the island. Once the treaty
had been signed there began a struggle for influence between the
English Protestants and the Catholic representatives of France. During
the first years of the Protectorate, the Protestants managed to retain
a considerable hold over Tahitian society, thanks to their knowledge
of the country and its language. George Pritchard had been away at the
time. He returned however to work towards indoctrinating the locals
against the Roman Catholic French.
Tahitian War of independence (1844–47)
Main article: Franco-Tahitian War (1844–47)
In 1843, the Queen's Protestant advisor, Pritchard, persuaded her to
display the Tahitian flag in place of the flag of the
Protectorate. By way of reprisal, Admiral Dupetit-Thouars
announced the annexation of the Kingdom of Pōmare on 6 November 1843
and set up the governor
Armand Joseph Bruat
Armand Joseph Bruat there as the chief of the
new colony. He threw Pritchard into prison, and later sent him back to
Britain. The annexation caused the Queen to be exiled to the Leeward
Islands, and after a period of troubles, a real Franco-Tahitian war
began in March 1844. News of
Tahiti reached Europe in early 1844. The
French statesman François Guizot, supported by King Louis-Philippe of
France, had denounced annexation of the island.
The war ended in December 1846 in favour of the French. The Queen
returned from exile in 1847 and agreed to sign a new covenant,
considerably reducing her powers, while increasing those of the
commissaire. The French nevertheless still reigned over the Kingdom of
Tahiti as masters. In 1863, they put an end to the British influence
and replaced the British Protestant Missions with the Société des
missions évangéliques de Paris (Society of Evangelical Missions of
During the same period about a thousand Chinese, mainly Cantonese,
were recruited at the request of a plantation owner in Tahiti, William
Stewart, to work on the great cotton plantation at Atimaono. When the
enterprise resulted in bankruptcy in 1873, a few Chinese workers
returned to their country, but a large number stayed in
mixed with the population.
In 1866 the district councils were formed, elected, which were given
the powers of the traditional hereditary chiefs. In the context of the
republican assimilation, these councils tried their best to protect
the traditional way of life of the local people, which was threatened
by European influence.
Tahitian children, c. 1906
In 1877, Queen Pōmare died after ruling for fifty years. Her son,
Pōmare V, then succeeded her on the throne. The new king seemed
little concerned with the affairs of the kingdom, and when in 1880 the
governor Henri Isidore Chessé, supported by the Tahitian chiefs,
pushed him to abdicate in favour of France, he accepted. On 29 June
1880, he ceded
Tahiti to France along with the islands that were its
dependencies. He was given the titular position of Officer of the
Orders of the
Legion of Honour
Legion of Honour and Agricultural Merit of France.
Having become a colony,
Tahiti thus lost all sovereignty.
nevertheless a special colony, since all the subjects of the Kingdom
of Pōmare would be given French citizenship. On 14 July 1881,
among cries of "Vive la République!" the crowds celebrated the fact
that Polynesia now belonged to France; this was the first celebration
of the Tiurai (national and popular festival). In 1890,
a commune of the Republic of France.
The French painter
Paul Gauguin lived on
Tahiti in the 1890s and
painted many Tahitian subjects.
Papeari has a small Gauguin museum.
In 1891 Matthew Turner, an American shipbuilder from San Francisco who
had been seeking a fast passage between the city and Tahiti, built the
Papeete, a two-masted schooner that made the trip in seventeen
Twentieth century to present
In 1903, the Établissements Français d'Océanie (French
Establishments in Oceania) were created, which collected together
Tahiti, the other Society Islands, the Austral Islands, the Marquesas
Islands and the Tuamotu Archipelago.
World War II
World War II banknote (1943), printed in Papeete,
depicting the outline of
Tahiti on reverse
During the First World War, the
Papeete region of the island was
attacked by two German warships. A French gunboat as well as a
captured German freighter were sunk in the harbour and the two German
warships bombarded the colony. Between 1966 and 1996 the French
Government conducted 193 nuclear bomb tests above and below the atolls
Moruroa and Fangataufa. The last test was conducted on 27 January
Tahiti and the whole of
French Polynesia became an overseas
territory (Territoire d'outre-mer).
Tahitians were granted French
citizenship, a right that had been campaigned for by nationalist
Pouvanaa a Oopa
Pouvanaa a Oopa for many years. In 2003, French Polynesia's
status was changed to that of an overseas collectivity (Collectivité
d'outre-mer) and in 2004 it was declared an overseas country (pays
d'outre-mer or POM).
Tauatomo Mairau claimed the Tahitian throne, and attempted to
re-assert the status of the monarchy in court.
On April 2, 2018, the doomed Chinese space station
de-orbited and fell to Earth narrowly missed hitting
Tahiti as it
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Flag of Tahiti
Political map of Oceania, showing EEZ borders
Tahitians are French citizens with complete civil and political
rights. French is the official language but Tahitian and French are
both in use. However, there was a time during the 1960s and 1970s when
children were forbidden to speak Tahitian in schools. Tahitian is now
taught in schools; it is sometimes even a requirement for employment.
Tahiti is part of French Polynesia.
French Polynesia is a
semi-autonomous territory of France with its own assembly, president,
budget and laws. France's influence is limited to subsidies, education
During a press conference on 26 June 2006 during the second
France-Oceania Summit, French President
Jacques Chirac said he did not
think the majority of
Tahitians wanted independence. He would keep an
open door to a possible referendum in the future.
Elections for the Assembly of French Polynesia, the Territorial
Assembly of French Polynesia, were held on 23 May 2004.
In a surprise result, Oscar Temaru's pro-independence progressive
coalition, Union for Democracy, formed a government with a one-seat
majority in the 57-seat parliament, defeating the conservative party,
Tahoera'a Huiraatira, led by Gaston Flosse. On 8 October 2004, Flosse
succeeded in passing a censure motion against the government,
provoking a crisis. A controversy is whether the national government
of France should use its power to call for new elections in a local
government in case of a political crisis.
Further information: Tahitians
Tahitians are of Polynesian ancestry comprising 70% of
the population alongside Europeans, East Asians (mostly Chinese) and
people of mixed heritage sometimes referred to as Demis. They make up
the largest population in French Polynesia. Most people from
metropolitan France live in
Papeete and its suburbs, notably Punaauia
where they make up almost 20% of the population.
Official figures from past censuses.
The island consists of 12 communes, which, along with Moorea-Maiao,
make up the Windward Islands administrative subdivision.
The capital is Pape'ete and the largest commune by population is
Taiarapu-Est has the largest area.
Communes of Tahiti
The following is a list of communes and their subdivisions sorted
7007214500000000000♠21.45 km2 (8.28 sq mi)
6996443000000000000♠443/km2 (1,150/sq mi)
Tetiaroa, an atoll north of Arue belongs to the commune.
7007342000000000000♠34.2 km2 (13.2 sq mi)
6996870999999999999♠871/km2 (2,260/sq mi)
Largest commune (by population) in
Tahiti and French Polynesia.
Hitiaa O Te Ra
7008218200000000000♠218.2 km2 (84.2 sq mi)
6995399999999999999♠40/km2 (100/sq mi)
Hitiaa, Mahaena, Papenoo, Tiarei
The administrative centre of the commune is the settlement of Hitiaa.
7007516000000000000♠51.6 km2 (19.9 sq mi)
6996277999999999999♠278/km2 (720/sq mi)
Close to the Papenoo River.
7007645000000000000♠64.5 km2 (24.9 sq mi)
6996187000000000000♠187/km2 (480/sq mi)
7007925000000000000♠92.5 km2 (35.7 sq mi)
6996114999999999999♠115/km2 (300/sq mi)
7007174000000000000♠17.4 km2 (6.7 sq mi)
6997149700000000000♠1,497/km2 (3,880/sq mi)
French Polynesia and 2nd largest city.
7007354000000000000♠35.4 km2 (13.7 sq mi)
6996410999999999999♠411/km2 (1,060/sq mi)
Papeete and Arue.
7007759000000000000♠75.9 km2 (29.3 sq mi)
6996335000000000000♠335/km2 (870/sq mi)
Paul Gauguin lived in
Punaauia in the 1890s. Punaauia
is the 3rd largest city in French Polynesia.
7008218300000000000♠218.3 km2 (84.3 sq mi)
6995530000000000000♠53/km2 (140/sq mi)
Afaahiti, Faaone, Pueu, Tautira
An offshore island called
Mehetia belongs to the commune.
7008104300000000000♠104.3 km2 (40.3 sq mi)
6995670000000000000♠67/km2 (170/sq mi)
Teahupo'o, Taohotu, Vairao
Extends over half of the peninsula of
Teva I Uta
7008119500000000000♠119.5 km2 (46.1 sq mi)
6995720000000000000♠72/km2 (190/sq mi)
The administrative centre of the commune is the settlement of Mataiea.
Tourism is a significant industry.
Southern suburbs of
Papeete (commune of Punaauia).
In July, the Heivā festival in
Papeete celebrates Polynesian culture
and the commemoration of the storming of the Bastille in Paris. After
the establishment of the CEP (Centre d'Experimentation du Pacifique)
in 1963, the standard of living in
French Polynesia increased
considerably and many
Polynesians abandoned traditional activities and
emigrated to the urban centre of Pape'ete. Even though the standard of
living is elevated (due mainly to French foreign direct investment),
the economy is reliant on imports. At the cessation of CEP activities,
France signed the Progress Pact with
Tahiti to compensate the loss of
financial resources and assist in education and tourism with an
investment of about US$150 million a year from the beginning of
The main trading partners are
Metropolitan France for about 40% of
imports and about 25% of exports, the other main trading partners are
the US, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.
Tahitian pearl (Black pearl) farming is also a substantial source of
revenues, most of the pearls being exported to Japan, Europe and the
Tahiti also exports vanilla, fruits, flowers, monoi, fish, copra
oil, and noni.
Tahiti is also home to a single winery, whose vineyards
are located on the
Unemployment affects about 13% of the active population, especially
women and unqualified young people.
Tahiti's currency, the French Pacific Franc (CFP, also known as XPF),
is pegged to the
Euro at 1 CFP = EUR .0084 (1 EUR = 119.05 CFP,
approx. 113 CFP to the US Dollar in March 2017). Hotels and financial
institutions offer exchange services.
Sales tax in
Tahiti is called Taxe sur la Valeur Ajoutée (TVA or
value added tax (V.A.T.) in English). V.A.T. 2009 on tourist services
is 10% and V.A.T. 2009 on hotels, small boarding houses, food and
beverages is 6%. V.A.T. on the purchase of goods and products is 16%.
Energy and electricity
French Polynesia imports its petroleum and has no local refinery or
production. Daily consumption of imported oil products was 7,430
barrels, according to the US Energy Information Administration.
Music of Tahiti
Music of Tahiti and Arioi
Tahitian woman in festive costume c. 1906
Tahitian cultures included an oral tradition that involved the
mythology of gods, such as
'Oro and beliefs, as well as ancient
traditions such as tattooing and navigation. The annual Heivā
Festival in July is a celebration of traditional culture, dance, music
and sports including a long distance race between the islands of
French Polynesia, in modern outrigger canoes (va'a).
Paul Gauguin Museum is dedicated to the life and works of French
Paul Gauguin (1848–1903) who painted famous works such as Two
Tahitian Women on the Beach
Tahitian Women on the Beach and Where Do We Come From?
What Are We? Where Are We Going?.
Musée de Tahiti et des Îles
Musée de Tahiti et des Îles (Museum of
Tahiti and the Island) is
in Punaauia. It is an ethnographic museum that was founded in 1974 to
conserve and restore Polynesian artefacts and cultural practices.
Robert Wan Pearl Museum is the world's only museum dedicated to
Papeete Market sells local arts and crafts.
Tahitians wearing the pareo wrap-around garment and practising a
One of the most widely recognised images of the islands is the
world-famous Tahitian dance. The
'ote'a (sometimes written as otea) is
a traditional dance from Tahiti, where the dancers, standing in
several rows, execute figures. This dance, easily recognised by its
fast hip-shaking and grass skirts, is often confused with the Hawaiian
hula, a generally slower more graceful dance which focuses more on the
hands and storytelling than the hips.
The ʻōteʻa is one of the few dances which existed in pre-European
times as a male dance. On the other hand, the hura (Tahitian
vernacular for hula), a dance for women, has disappeared, and the
'upa'upa is likewise gone but may have re-emerged as
the tamure. Nowadays, the ʻōteʻa can be danced by men (ʻōteʻa
tāne), by women (ʻōteʻa vahine), or by both genders (ʻōteʻa
ʻāmui = united ʻō.). The dance is with music only, drums, but no
singing. The drum can be one of the types of the tōʻere, a laying
log of wood with a longitudinal slit, which is struck by one or two
sticks. Or it can be the pahu, the ancient Tahitian standing drum
covered with a shark skin and struck by the hands or with sticks. The
rhythm from the tōʻere is fast, from the pahu it is slower. A
smaller drum, the faʻatete, can be used.
The dancers make gestures, re-enacting daily occupations of life. For
the men the themes can be chosen from warfare or sailing, and then
they may use spears or paddles.
For women the themes are closer to home or from nature: combing their
hair or the flight of a butterfly, for example. More elaborate themes
can be chosen, for example, one where the dancers end up in a map of
Tahiti, highlighting important places. In a proper ʻōteʻa the story
of the theme should pervade the whole dance.
A dugout canoe of pirogue type in the Pacific
The group dance called
'Aparima is often performed with the dancers
dressed in pareo and maro. There are two types of ʻaparima: the
ʻaparima hīmene (sung handdance) and the ʻaparima vāvā (silent
handdance), the latter being performed with music only and no singing.
Newer dances include the hivinau and the pa'o'a.
Tahitians are Polynesians, part of the greater family
of Oceanic peoples, noted in their history and culture for their
navigation skills, essential for trade and communications in their
The Tahitian national sport is Va'a. In English, this paddle sport is
also known as outrigger canoe. The
Tahitians consistently achieve
record-breaking and top times as world champion in this sport.
Major sports in
Tahiti include rugby union and association football
and the island has fielded a national basketball team, which is a
member of FIBA Oceania.
Another sport is surfing, with famous surfers such as
Malik Joyeux and
Teahupo'o is one of the deadliest surf breaks in the
Rugby union in
Tahiti is governed by the Fédération Tahitienne de
Rugby de Polynésie Française which was formed in 1989. The Tahiti
national rugby union team has been active since 1971 but have only
played 12 games since then.
Tahiti is administered by the Fédération Tahitienne de
Football and was founded in 1938. The
Tahiti Division Fédérale is
the top division on the island and the
Tahiti Championnat Enterprise
is the second tier. Some of the major clubs are AS Manu-Ura, who play
in Stade Hamuta, AS Pirae, who play in the
Stade Pater Te Hono Nui and
AS Tefana, who play in the Stade Louis Ganivet. Lesser clubs include
Matavai. In 2012, the national team won the OFC Nations Cup qualifying
2013 FIFA Confederations Cup
2013 FIFA Confederations Cup in Brazil and becoming the first
team other than Australia or New Zealand to win it.
Tahiti Cup is the islands' premier football knockout tournament
and has been played for since 1938. The winner of the
Tahiti Cup goes
on to play the winner of the
Tahiti Division Fédérale in the Tahiti
Coupe des Champions.
Tahiti was chosen as the host of the 2013 FIFA Beach Soccer
World Cup, which was held in September 2013.
Tahiti was accepted into as a member of the Asia-Pacific
Rugby League Federation.
Tahiti join as new members along with India,
Philippines, Tokelau and American Samoa in a meeting of the federation
Auckland over 5–6 December. This is a sign of the growing
Rugby league in the Pacific islands.
Tahiti has also been represented at the World Championship of
Pétanque. They are the pre-eminent country in the Oceania region for
Pétanque, undoubtably due to their strong connections to France.
Tahiti is home to the University of
French Polynesia (Université de
la Polynésie Française). It is a growing university, with 3,200
students and 62 researchers. Many courses are available such as law,
commerce, science, and literature. There is also the Collège La
Mennais located in Papeete.
Faa'a International Airport
Faa'a International Airport is located 5 km (3.1 mi) from
Papeete in the commune of
Faaa and is the only international airport
in French Polynesia. Because of limited level terrain, rather than
levelling large stretches of sloping agricultural land, the airport is
built primarily on reclaimed land on the coral reef just off-shore.
International destinations such as Auckland, Hanga Roa, Honolulu, Los
Angeles, Paris, Santiago de Chile, Sydney and Tokyo are served by Air
France, Air New Zealand,
Air Tahiti Nui
Air Tahiti Nui French Polynesia's flag
Hawaiian Airlines and LATAM Airlines.
French Polynesia and to
New Caledonia are available
Aircalin and Air Tahiti;
Air Tahiti has their headquarters at the
Two Tahitian girls with a hibiscus flower
Mo'orea Ferry operates from
Papeete and takes about 45 minutes to
travel to Moorea. Other ferries are the Aremiti 5 and the Aremiti 7
and these two ferries sail to
Moorea in about half an hour. There are
also several ferries that transport people and goods throughout the
Bora Bora cruiseline sails to
Bora Bora about once a
week. The main hub for these ferries is the
Tahiti has a freeway that runs across the west coast. This freeway
starts in Arue and continues across the
Papeete urban area. Then it
continues along the west coast of
Tahiti Nui through smaller villages.
The freeway turns east toward Taravao where
Tahiti Nui meets Tahiti
Iti. Tahiti's west coast freeway keeps going until
Teahupo'o where the
freeway becomes a thin paved road.
Cultural variations in adoption#Polynesia
List of volcanoes in French Polynesia
Postage stamps and postal history of French Polynesia
French Polynesia portal
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of the original Polynesian migration to Tahiti, and indeed whether it
came in one wave or several. Some experts put it as late as 500–800
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Polynesian Society. 12 (3): 184–186.
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islas que llevan su nombre, y Juan Jufré, armador de la espedición
que hizo en busca de otras en los Mares del Sur Santiago de Chile,
1918, reprinted by Gabriela Mistral, 1974, pp. 169
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frégate la Boudeuse et la flûte l'Étoile ", ch VIII Read on
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^ Robert W. Kirk (2008) Pitcairn Island, the Bounty Mutineers and
Their Descendants, p. 78, ISBN 0-7864-3471-6
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genocide in Hawaiʻi. University of Hawaii Press, p. 240,
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^ "Get a Map database and website". Retrieved 4 May 2013.
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^ See: House of Teururai.
^ Etienne Taillemite (1999), Marins français à la découvert du
monde, Fayard, ISBN 2-213-60114-3, p. 498
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La Grande Encyclopédie for the 1897 census
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Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Tahiti.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Tahiti.
Official website for citizens of Australia
Official website for citizens of New Zealand
Official website for citizens of Great Britain
CIA Factbook entry
Tahitian Heritage in French with Google Translation available
Society Islands of French Polynesia
Windward Islands: Mai'ao
Leeward Islands: Bora Bora
Archipelagos of French Polynesia: Australs
Communes of Tahiti
Clockwise from Papeetē, the capital
Hitia'a O Te Rā
Teva I Uta