Wallis and Futuna
|WALLIS AND FUTUNA COAT OF ARMS|
Location of Wallis and Futuna Islands within the continent of Oceania
Map of Wallis and Futuna Islands
Flag Description of Wallis and Futuna Islands:As an overseas territory of France, the Wallis and Futuna flag features a small flag of France upper left, and a classic version of a Maltese cross set atop a red field. On official occasions, the flag of France is hoisted. .
Background of Wallis and Futuna
The Futuna island group was discovered by the Dutch in 1616 and Wallis by the British in 1767, but it was the French who declared a protectorate over the islands in 1842, and took official control of them between 1886 and 1888. Notably, Wallis and Futuna was the only French colony to side with the Vichy regime during World War II, a phase that ended in May of 1942 with the arrival of 2,000 American troops. In 1959, the inhabitants of the islands voted to become a French overseas territory and officially assumed this status in July 1961.
Wallis and Futuna, in full Territory of the Wallis and Futuna Islands, French Territoire des Îles Wallis et Futuna , self-governing overseas collectivity of France consisting of two island groups in the west-central Pacific Ocean. The collectivity is geographically part of western Polynesia. It includes the Wallis Islands (Uvea and surrounding islets) and the Horne Islands (Futuna and Alofi). The capital is Matâ’utu, on Uvea.
The island of Uvea takes its European name, Wallis, from its 18th-century British discoverer, Capt. Samuel Wallis, but the indigenous name is of much greater antiquity. Uvea and Futuna are sometimes confused with islands of the same or similar names elsewhere. Uvea is sometimes confused with Ouvéa in the Loyalty Islands of New Caledonia. Futuna has a namesake among the islands of Vanuatu (formerly the New Hebrides), and folklore suggests that both the Futuna in Vanuatu and the Stewart Islands (Sikaiana) in the Solomon Islands were settled from Futuna in the pre-European era. Total land area 54 square miles (140 square km). Pop. (2008) 13,445.
Geography of Wallis and Futuna
Uvea is a volcanic island, but it is relatively low, rising to a maximum elevation of only 476 feet (145 metres) at Mount Lulu Fakahega. Its total land area is 29 square miles (76 square km). Uvea is surrounded by a barrier reef with some 20 uninhabited islets, which have a maximum elevation of 200 feet (60 metres). The reef is broken by passes that give boats access to the main island, and the area between the reef and the island is a sheltered fishing ground.
Futuna lies a little over 125 miles (200 km) to the southwest, and it has a smaller neighbour, Alofi. Both are volcanic islands. Futuna has an area of 18 square miles (46 square km), and its volcanic peaks rise to 2,493 feet (760 metres). Alofi’s land area is 7 square miles (18 square km), and its highest elevation is about 1,198 feet (365 metres). Futuna and Alofi are separated by a channel of about 2 miles (3.2 km) in width, and both islands are partially sheltered by fringing reefs.
All three islands receive adequate precipitation. Uvea has no permanent streams, but there are numerous streams and wells on Futuna. Alofi is without fresh water and has no permanent settlements.
The soils of Uvea and Futuna islands are of limited fertility, and a number of factors restrict agricultural production. Only about one-fourth of the available land is suitable for cultivation. The system of land tenure, which is based on customary ownership by kin groups, has resulted in a fragmentation of land parcels. Traditional agricultural practices alternate two or three years of cropping with long fallow periods, and there has been a cumulative deterioration of the soil.
The territory’s climate is tropical with high humidity. Two seasons are fairly well delineated. The hot, rainy period, during which tropical storms may occur, lasts from November to March and has average temperatures in the high 80s F (about 31 °C). A dry, cooler season with trade winds from the southeast lasts from April to October, with average temperatures in the low 80s F (about 27 °C).
Basic subsistence crops have been introduced: coconuts, breadfruit, bananas, taro, cassava, yams, mangoes, and pineapples. The coconut groves on Uvea were destroyed by rhinoceros beetles in the 1930s, but the pest did not reach Futuna and Alofi. Substantial stands of undisturbed natural forest remain only on Alofi and a small section of Uvea. Otherwise, forests have virtually disappeared, and erosion is a problem on Futuna.
All of the territory’s land mammals have been introduced. Pigs are of ceremonial importance and very highly valued. Some cattle are also raised. Chickens constitute a minor part of the diet. Fish and other marine fauna provide the bulk of dietary protein.
Demography of Wallis and Futuna
People The indigenous people are Polynesians, but there are significant differences between the languages and peoples of Uvea and Futuna islands. It appears that Uvea was settled by at least 800 bce, and the people were subsequently conquered by Tongans. As a consequence, cultural, historical, and linguistic ties link Uvea and Tonga. In contrast, local folklore suggests that Futunans had their origins in Samoa; their language is related to that of Samoa, and the Futunans share many cultural traits with Samoa. Both Wallisian (Uvean) and Futunan are Polynesian languages and, along with French, are official languages. While the people of the islands have long been governed by a French administration and the vast majority profess the Roman Catholic faith, they do not share a common identity. Futuna is reluctantly tied to Uvea, and its people have expressed a desire to have separate territorial status.
Villages are dispersed on the islands, mainly on the coast. There are no real urban areas. About two-thirds of the population lives on Uvea. The Uvean and Futunan population in New Caledonia is larger than that of the home islands. The majority of the expatriates in New Caledonia are Uveans. The exodus resulted from the pull of greater opportunities for employment abroad and the push of limited prospects and growing population pressures at home. Because of the remittances they contribute to the economy, the expatriates are an asset as long as they remain abroad, but they would place an intolerable burden on local resources if they were to return home.
The number of French expatriates in Wallis and Futuna has always been small. Of the total resident population in the islands, only a small number are of European descent.
Economy of Wallis and Futuna
About four-fifths of the population of Wallis and Futuna engages in subsistence farming, growing yams, taros, bananas, and other food crops. Some livestock is raised (mostly pigs). The notion of selling produce from the land is contrary to traditional custom, wherein items are bartered and not sold. Similarly, fish are caught mostly to satisfy the immediate needs of family, near kin, and neighbours. Most fish are taken in sheltered areas within the fringing reef, and little fishing is done in the open sea.
Wallis and Futuna is truly resource-poor, and very little revenue is earned from exports. Revenues come from French government subsidies, licensing of fishing rights to Japanese and South Korean companies, import taxes, and remittances from expatriate workers in New Caledonia. Exports include small amounts of breadfruit, yams, and taros, along with trochus shells. Vietnam, New Caledonia, Italy, and Japan are the major recipients. Imports, which come mainly from France and Australia, include food products, electrical machinery, road vehicles, and building and public works supplies.
Uvea is more developed than Futuna. The French administration is located on Uvea, and that island has the better infrastructure. Its roads and public services are superior, and most households have running water and electricity. The government is the island’s largest single employer. In contrast, Futuna is somewhat isolated; there is only a partially surfaced road circling the island; and administrative positions are scarce. Wallis and Futuna attracts a limited amount of tourism.
There is an international airport at Hihifo, northern Uvea, that is linked to French Polynesia and New Caledonia. Flights operate between Uvea and Futuna islands. A cargo vessel travels between the islands and Nouméa, New Caledonia, about a dozen times a year.
Government and Society of Wallis and Futuna
Wallis and Futuna is an overseas collectivity of France divided into three districts that correspond to three traditional political divisions, or kingdoms (more accurately, paramount chieftaincies). One kingdom (Wallis) includes all of Uvea, and the other two divide the island of Futuna (in the northwest, Sigave, and in the southeast, Alo, which also includes the island of Alofi). A French-appointed chief administrator (administrateur supérieur) is the chief executive officer of the territory and serves as the president of the Territorial Council. The council includes the three kings and three others appointed by the president with the approval of the legislature, the Territorial Assembly. The council decides on matters of general policy.
The Territorial Assembly consists of 20 members (13 from Uvea and seven from Futuna) elected for five-year terms by universal suffrage. The chief administrator has fairly broad veto powers over actions of the Assembly. As an integral part of France, Wallis and Futuna elects local representatives to the French Senate and National Assembly.
Primary schools in Wallis and Futuna are operated by a Roman Catholic mission and by the state; the state has sole responsibility for secondary education. Both primary and lower-secondary schools are tuition-free. Higher-level education must be pursued in New Caledonia and metropolitan France. Free health services are available at hospitals on both Uvea and Futuna islands.
Culture Life of Wallis and Futuna
The culture of Wallis and Futuna is typically Polynesian, with strong emphasis on marriage and extended families centered on the church. Marriages are controlled by the family and formalized by the church, according to sociologist Nancy J. Pollock. Missionaries once raised young boys and girls apart from their families and then arranged their marriages. Today young people meet in high school, and families approve or disapprove of the friendship. Cohabitation occurs but is not approved of. Aunts and grandmothers raise illegitimate children.
An extended family household is the basic unit of society in Wallis and Futuna, and is likely to consist of several houses linked by brothers and sisters and their spouses, Pollock writes. Households change in size as young people and their children go to New Caledonia, leaving one or two children to look after the parents. When a young couple marries, they join the household of one of their families. It is rare for a new house to be built. The father, the eldest son, and occasionally, the eldest sister is head of the household. Close ties are maintained between members of the extended family, despite separation over distance. Both sons and daughters inherit rights to the land, and membership in the kinship group. One son and one daughter are expected to look after the parents, and the siblings of their parents.
Wallis is predominantly a rural community. All villages are linked by road to Mata-Utu and are built around a Catholic church where people gather at large family occasions. A program to teach building skills has led to the construction of numerous churches built with expensive imported materials. Houses are built mainly of concrete with corrugated iron roofs, although a few houses with pandanus-thatch sides and thatched roofs still exist. People prefer to sit on the floor. Some cooking is done outdoors. Newer houses have toilets attached. Houses are scattered and have one or two acres of land to grow subsistence crops. A house site may consist of four or five houses for the extended family.
Futunan houses follow the Samoan “fale” style, according to Pollock. The sleeping house is open-sided with a thatched roof and thatched blinds that can be let down in bad weather. There may be a concrete floor and a low wall to keep the pigs out. Cooking is done in a cook-house behind the sleeping house or in an earth oven in the bush. Water and electricity were installed in 1990, though few families can afford electricity.
There is “bush land” and “house land.” Families “possess" lands that link them to a “pule” and ultimately to the traditional chief. There is also land for use by members of the village. Family land rights are passed to both sons and daughters, but males are responsible for keeping the land productive. All family members are expected to work on the family land.
Wallis has an urban area that contains government buildings and shopping. Futuna consists of a string of villages along the southern coast, of which Leava is the main center. Each village has a small shop.
Tapa cloth, a cloth made from the bark of the breadfruit tree, used in rituals and sold to tourists. The kava bowl and tapa cloth are important symbols of both cultures. Kava is drunk both ritually and secularly in Futuna. The kava bowl is used to honor chiefs and the existing hierarchy. Tapa cloth is made by women from the bark of the breadfruit tree for exchange at rituals that draw extended families together. The cloth, along with specially scented oil, symbolizes women's wealth. Tapa is also sold to tourists.
Food gifts are symbols of welcome and good will, Pollock notes. The "malae," or meeting ground, is a place where people gather to honor their chiefs (kings in Futuna). The Lomipeau canoe, a large traditional boat that could hold up to 100 people, represents the ties between Wallis-Uvea and the early maritime empire of Tonga of four hundred years ago. It also symbolizes the strong seagoing tradition of these people, particularly their journeys to Tonga, Samoa, and other islands.
The music of Wallis and Futuna has a rich tradition, and is overwhelmingly Polynesian in form. Traditional music is taught by specialists called “mâau.” Prominent composers include Helena Puino, Apeleto Likuvalu, and Likaleto Simete. The Association Culturelle de Futuna promotes indigenous music. In 1999, Roland Di Rosa, a sound engineer, released Digital Studio, a compilation of Wallisian music. He has continued to release compilations that include performers like Ofamahi, Taulaga, and Semata.
The Kailao, often thought of as a Tongan war dance, was taken to Tonga from Uvea.
History of Wallis and Futuna
The earliest inhabitants in Wallis and Futuna were people of the Lapita culture, who had reached the islands by at least 800 bce. Archaeological evidence indicates that the people engaged in agriculture and fishing. Later waves of other Polynesian sailors reached the islands about 1400 ce: Samoans settled on Futuna, and Tongans on Uvea.
The three kingdoms of Uvea, Alo, and Sigave were in place when the islands of Wallis and Futuna were first encountered by Europeans in the 17th century. The Dutch explorers Jakob Le Maire and Willem Schouten sighted Futuna in 1616 during the early voyages of exploration in the Pacific. A lapse of 151 years occurred before Capt. Samuel Wallis encountered Uvea in 1767. There was another lapse of more than 50 years before the whaling industry reached the area in the 1820s, and Europeans began to make regular calls at both islands.
French Marist priests arrived as missionaries in the 1830s. They achieved considerable success within a decade and have remained an important force in the politics of the island group. Protestants never mounted a serious challenge, and the inhabitants of the islands were spared the religious conflicts that were common elsewhere in the Pacific.
As early as the 1840s, the islanders petitioned for French protection, but France was slow to respond; the Wallis Islands became a French protectorate in 1887, and Futuna did so in the following year. Over the next five decades, the French administration became well-entrenched and ruled the colony with a relatively firm hand.
In 1942, during World War II, the Allies based 6,000 troops on Uvea, and within a short time they built a system of roads, two landing strips, and anchoring facilities in the lagoon. These developments still form the basis of the island’s infrastructure.
In 1959 the islanders elected to become an overseas territory of France. Historically, the people of Wallis and Futuna have demonstrated conservatism, opposing proposals for a change in their dependent status.
In 1998 a typhoon (tropical cyclone) destroyed most of the cultivated crops on Uvea, including the island’s banana plantations; recovery was aided by a grant from France. The 1998 Nouméa Accord, which increased New Caledonia’s autonomy from France, led to discussions regarding the future status of Wallis and Futuna’s large community of expatriates in New Caledonia; the accord had given New Caledonia the power to control immigration from Wallis and Futuna in exchange for providing economic aid. In 2003 the two governments concluded a bilateral agreement that redefined their relations under the Nouméa Accord, including provisions for regular discussions regarding issues affecting the expatriates.
There was instability in the three kingdoms in the early 21st century. The king of Sigave was deposed by members of his clan in 2003 and was not succeeded until five months later. Several years later the other two kingdoms were, for a time, simultaneously leaderless: the king of Wallis died in 2007 after a 48-year reign on Uvea, and the throne remained empty until July 2008; and in February 2008 the king of Alo, after having reigned only five years, was deposed by the kingdom’s chiefly clans amid criticism of his leadership style.
Wallis and Futuna Islands
Wallis Islands, French Îles Wallis, group of a main island and some 20 islets forming the northeastern part of the French overseas collectivity of Wallis and Futuna, in the west-central Pacific Ocean. The group is composed of the island of Uvea (not to be confused with Ouvéa Island in New Caledonia; also called Wallis Island) and its surrounding ring of coral islets. The earliest evidence of habitation on Uvea dates from at least 800 bce. The island was invaded by Tongans several times in its prehistory; the archaeological site of Talietumu, a fortified Tongan settlement, dates from about 1450 ce. The islands were visited in 1767 by the British navigator Capt. Samuel Wallis and were occupied by the French in 1842. They became a French protectorate in 1887 and part of the overseas territory (from 2007, overseas collectivity) of Wallis and Futuna following a referendum in 1959. In addition to their administration by the French-led Wallis and Futuna government (including a locally elected legislature), the islands are ruled by a king who exercises limited powers.
The reef islets are small and low. Uvea, however, is 30 miles (50 km) in circumference and rises to Mount Lulu Fakahega at 476 feet (145 metres). Its fertile volcanic soil and adequate precipitation support subsistence agriculture. The island has an international airport (Hihifo) in the north, a fairly extensive system of roads, and port facilities at Matâ’utu, the capital. Area, Uvea island, 29 square miles (76 square km). Pop. (2003) 10,071.
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