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August 10th, 2014 

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Travel and Explore Wallis and Futuna

Wallis and  Futuna

 Beachcomber Pete




 Lying in the South Pacific between Fiji and Samoa, the Territory of Wallis and Futuna, a French overseas collectivity, includes three volcanic tropical islands and numerous tiny islets. These are divided into two island groups, the Wallis Island group in the north and the Hoorn Islands to the south, about 260 km (161 miles) apart. The Wallis group consists of the main island of Uvea along with 10 other volcanic islands all surrounded by a barrier reef which forms an additional 12 coral islands. The Hoorn Islands includes Futuna Island and Alofi Island. The capital of the Territory is Mata-Utu located on Uvea, the main island of the Wallis group.

 Archeological evidence from Wallis Island, which dates to 1400 B.C., indicates that the earliest arrivals were Austronesian. However, during the 15th century A.D., Tu'i Tonga warriors conquered the south of Uvea, in a series of legendary battles. While the island later obtained its independence, the descendants of those warriors formed the nobility of the country. The first Europeans arrived at the island in 1767. The island group carries the name of the British captain who first encountered it, Samuel Wallis.

 Less is known about the early history of Futuna and Alofi. The first settlers of these islands are thought to have come from Samoa, which is supported by linguistic evidence. The islands were discovered by Europeans in 1616 by the Dutch navigators Willem Cornelius van Schouten and Jacob le Maire, who gave them the name the Hoorn Islands after a town in Holland).

 Contact with Europeans was limited to whaling and merchant ships until 1837 when French missionaries arrived on the islands. By 1840, most of the population was converted to Roman Catholicism. The French began to intervene on the islands in 1842 when the missionaries asked for protection after part of the local population rebelled. In 1887, the queen of Uvea signed a treaty establishing the island as a French protectorate. The Kings of Sigave and Alo also signed treaties in 1888, making both Funtuna and Alofi protectorates as well. All three islands were placed under the authority of the French colony of New Caledonia until 1959 when the inhabitants voted to become a French overseas territory.


 The Territory boasts about 15,000 residents of almost entirely Polynesian descent. Governed under the French constitution, the islanders elect representatives to both the French Senate and the French National Assembly, as well as selecting members of the Territorial Assembly. The three chiefdoms who originally inhabited the islands, the Uvea in Wallis, the Sigave on Futuna, and the Alo on Futuna (Alofi became uninhabitable in the mid-19th century due to a water shortage), continue to be an active part of the island culture and government as the respective kings serving as de jure members of the Council of the Territory. While most of the population speaks either Wallisian or Futunan in the home, nearly 80% also speak French.

 Wallis and Futuna has remained something of an undiscovered paradise, which allowed the Polynesian culture of its people to survive largely intact. Cultural sites on the islands include the ruins of the 15th century Tongan settlement of Talietumu and the Mata-Utu Cathedral on Uvea, as well as the chapel at Point Oneliki and the Church of Pierre Channel on Futuna. Natural wonders include the white beaches and Mt Puke on Futuna and the numerous volcanic lakes and barrier reef of Uvea.

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