Why is Tahiti Called French Polynesia

French Polynesia’s largest and most populated island, Tahiti, is renowned across the world for its astounding natural beauty, picture-perfect beaches, and dynamic culture. What about French Polynesia, though? How did this relationship start, and how has it changed through time?


Ferry travelling through islandsThe History of French Polynesia

We must first comprehend the history of this archipelago in order to comprehend why Tahiti is referred to as French Polynesia. French Polynesians are the descendants of Polynesians who first populated the islands that make up this region circa 200 AD. These people created a distinctive culture that emphasized social peace and community and was deeply connected to the land and the water.

European explorers started traveling to Tahiti and other French Polynesian islands in the 18th century. The first European to reach Tahiti was the British adventurer Samuel Wallis in 1767. Others, including James Cook in 1769, came after him. These travelers exposed Tahiti and the other French Polynesian islands to the outside world, which led to a time of rapid change and development.

France started to exert its influence over French Polynesia, also known as the Society Islands, in the 19th century. Tahiti and the neighboring islands were legally seized by France in 1842, and they were placed under French administration. France expanded its dominance over the islands throughout the ensuing decades by setting up a network of administrative offices, schools, and other institutions. French Polynesia is the name given to the islands in 1957.

The Impact of French Colonization

Tahiti and the other islands of French Polynesia were greatly impacted by French colonialism. Many Polynesians benefited from the French’s introduction of new technologies, including modern transportation and medicine, which helped to raise their standard of living. Additionally, they introduced fresh crops like coffee and vanilla, which aided in the diversification of the regional economy.

However, the islands also suffered as a result of French colonization. The Polynesians were forced by the French to renounce their ancient lifestyles and adopt French culture and customs. They also took over much of the land, which led to the eviction of many Polynesians and the creation of economic disparity. Furthermore, France conducted numerous nuclear tests on the islands in the 1960s and 1970s, which had detrimental effects on the environment and human health.

The Relationship between Tahiti and France Today

French Polynesia is currently a French overseas territory, which means it is a part of France but yet enjoys some autonomy. French Polynesia has its own administration and enjoys considerable self-governance, especially when it comes to managing its natural resources and the tourism industry. The territorial legislature chooses the president of French Polynesia, who is the country’s head of state.

In addition to having its own flag, anthem, and currency (the CFP franc, tied to the euro), French Polynesia is also a sovereign state. Additionally, it has a distinctive culture that combines French and Polynesian customs and is well-known for its music, dancing, and visual arts.

However, there is still significant hostility between French Polynesia and France over matters like economic development and nuclear testing. Regarding compensation for nuclear testing that took place on the islands in the 1960s and 1970s, French Polynesia sued France in 2013. The ongoing litigation between these two parties demonstrates their complicated connection.

Natural Resources Management in French Polynesia

Natural resource management is one of the most significant concerns that French Polynesia is now dealing with. As well as valuable coral reefs and marine ecosystems, the islands are home to a wide variety of plant and animal species. The local economy depends on these resources, especially the fishing and tourism industries.

A variety of policies have been put in place in French Polynesia to safeguard these resources and advance sustainable development. For instance, the government has created a number of sizable marine protected areas, such as the Fakarava Biosphere Reserve and the Marquesas Islands Marine Park. Important marine ecosystems are preserved in certain places, and ecotourism is encouraged.

The government has also created a number of fishing laws, such as limitations on the use of specific gear and guidelines for the maximum quantity and size of fish that may be taken. These rules are designed to safeguard fish populations and the fishing industry’s long-term viability.

French Polynesia has also put in place a variety of regulations to support renewable energy sources like wind and solar energy. These regulations aim to lessen the islands’ reliance on imported fossil fuels and encourage sustainable growth.

Person farming together with his childThe Future of French Polynesia

French Polynesia offers both possibilities and problems as it looks to the future. The prospect of climate change, which could have a substantial influence on the islands’ natural resources and economy, is one of the biggest problems. In addition to displacing communities and harming coral reefs, rising sea levels, more frequent storms, and other climatic changes could also have an impact on other businesses like tourism.

There are, however, also chances for French Polynesia to advance and expand. There is opportunity for additional expansion in the islands’ burgeoning tourism sector. Additionally, the government has selected a number of crucial industries for growth, including agriculture, aquaculture, and alternative energy.

A strong movement for further autonomy and perhaps independence from France has also emerged in recent years. A non-binding referendum on independence was held in 2018, but the majority of voters decided to stay a part of France. In the years to come, the subject will probably still be up for debate and discussion. Book Far and Away Adventure’s latest packages today!

Our Top FAQ's

Tahiti is called French Polynesia because it is the largest and most populated island in the archipelago, which came under French influence during the 19th century and was officially named French Polynesia in 1957.


European explorers, including Samuel Wallis and James Cook, exposed Tahiti and other islands to the outside world in the 18th century, leading to significant changes and development in the region.


French colonization brought new technologies and crops, improving the standard of living for some Polynesians. However, it also forced the adoption of French culture and customs, led to land displacement, and resulted in nuclear testing’s harmful consequences.


French Polynesia is a French overseas territory with its own administration and considerable self-governance. It has its flag, anthem, and currency and is recognized as a sovereign state with a distinct culture.


One of the significant concerns is natural resource management, particularly regarding coral reefs, marine ecosystems, and the fishing and tourism industries. Sustainable development policies have been implemented to address these issues.


Climate change poses a major challenge, with rising sea levels and extreme weather events threatening the islands’ natural resources and economy. Additionally, debates about autonomy and independence from France continue to emerge.


The government has identified tourism, agriculture, aquaculture, and alternative energy as crucial industries for development and expansion in the region.


In 2018, a non-binding referendum on independence was held, with the majority voting to remain part of France. However, the topic remains subject to ongoing debate and discussion in the years ahead.


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