Society Islands

Society Islands

Society Islands, island group (2002 pop. 214,445), South Pacific, a part of French Polynesia. The group comprises the Windward Islands and the Leeward Islands (total land area c.650 sq mi/1,680 sq km), two clusters of volcanic and coral islands lying in a 450-mi (724-km) chain. Only eight of the islands are inhabited. The Windward Islands include Tahiti, Moorea, Mehetia, and Tetiaroa; the Leeward Islands include Rai'atea (largest island of the Leeward group), Huahine, Bora-Bora, Maupiti, Tahaa, Maiao, Maupihaa, Tupai, Manuae, and Motu One. The islands are mountainous, and there are breadfruit, pandanus, and coconut trees; the limited fauna includes wild pigs, rats, and small lizards. The major products are copra, sugar, rum, mother-of-pearl, and vanilla. Tourism is extremely important to the economy.

The Society Islands were visited in 1767 by the English navigator Samuel Wallis, who claimed them for Great Britain. A year later, however, the French navigator Louis Antoine de Bougainville established a French claim. They were named the Society Islands in 1769 by Capt. James Cook. The group became a protectorate of France in 1843 and a colony in 1880. In 1946, French Polynesia, including the Society Islands, became an overseas territory of France.

The Windward Islands (Îles du Vent) are the eastern group of the Society Islands in French Polynesia, an overseas collectivity of France in the southern Pacific Ocean. The archipelago comprises an administrative division (subdivision administrative) of French Polynesia, and includes Tahiti, Moorea, Mehetia, Tetiaroa, and Maiao. The capital of the administrative district is Papeete on the island of Tahiti.

Tahiti, Moorea, and Mehetia are high islands. Tetiaroa and Maiao are coral atolls.

The majority of the population speaks French and Tahitian (co-official with French throughout French Polynesia).

Administratively, the Windward Islands form the administrative subdivision of the Windward Islands (subdivision administrative des Îles du Vent), one of French Polynesia's five administrative subdivisions. Geographically, the administrative subdivision of the Windward Islands is identical with the electoral district of the Windward Islands (circonscription des Îles du Vent), one of French Polynesia's 6 electoral districts (circonsriptions électorales) for the Assembly of French Polynesia (see also Politics of French Polynesia).


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