The first humans settled Wallis and Futuna around 800 B.C. The islands were a natural midpoint between Fiji and Samoa. Around A.D. 1500, Tongans invaded Wallis and a chiefdom system resembling Tonga’s formal hierarchy developed on the island. Tongans attempted to settle Futuna but were repeatedly rebuffed. Samoans settled Futuna in the 1600s and a slightly less centralized chiefdom system formed. Dutch explorers were the first Europeans to see the islands in 1616, followed intermittently by other Europeans, including British explorer Samuel WALLIS in 1767. French Catholic missionaries were the first Europeans to permanently settle Wallis and Futuna in 1837. The missionaries converted most of the population of Wallis by 1842 and of Futuna by 1846. The missionaries and newly-converted King LAVELUA of Uvea on Wallis asked France for a protectorate in 1842 following a rebellion of locals. France agreed, although the protectorate status would not be ratified until 1887. In 1888, King MUSULAMU of Alo and King TAMOLE of Sigave, both on Futuna, signed a treaty establishing a French protectorate; the Wallis and Futuna protectorate was integrated into the territory of New Caledonia that same year. France renegotiated the terms of the protectorate with the territory’s three kings in 1910, expanding French authority.
Wallis and Futuna was the only French colony to side with the Vichy regime during World War II until the arrival of Free French and US troops in 1942. In 1959, inhabitants of the islands voted to separate from New Caledonia and become a French overseas territory, a status it assumed in 1961. Despite the split, a significant Wallisian and Futunan community still lives in New Caledonia. In 2003, Wallis and Futuna’s designation changed to that of an overseas collectivity. Wallis and Futuna became an associate member of the Pacific Islands Forum in 2018, two years after France’s other Pacific territories became full members of the organization.
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Source: CIA World Factbook - This page was last updated on Saturday, September 18, 2021