New Caledonia is a special collectivity of France located in the southwest Pacific Ocean about 750 miles east of Australia and more than 10,000 miles east of Metropolitan France. New Caledonia is an archipelago that includes the main island of Grande Terre (aka Le Caillou), the Isle of Pines, the Belep archipelago, the Chesterfield Islands, the Loyalty Islands and islets. New Caledonia has just 18,500 square kilometers of land, which ranks 154th in the world, and the population has grown slowly but steadily. New Caledonia has a very low population density of just 13 people per square kilometer (35/sq mi), which ranks 200th in the world. About 17,400 people live in the Loyalty Islands Province, 45,000 in the North Province and 183,000 in the South Province. The indigenous Kanak make up 94% of the population in the Loyalty Islands Province, 74% in the North Province and 27% in the South Province.
New Caledonia Demographics
About 40% of the New Caledonia population belongs to the indigenous Kanak community, while 29% are European and 8.7% originated from Futuna or Wallis. The rest of the population includes Tahitians (2%), Javanese Indonesian (1.6%), Vietnamese (1%), Ni-Vanuatu (0.9%), other Asian (0.8%), and other (1%). The Kanak are indigenous to New Caledonia and part of the Melanesian group.
New Caledonia History
New Caledonia was first discovered toward the end of the 18th century and was originally of interest for sandalwood. After this trade declined, the people of New Caledonia -- who were called the Kanakas after the Hawaiian word for "men" -- were kidnapped and enslaved. Through the 19th century, cannibalism was widespread in the area.
The area eventually came under French rule and it became a penal colony through the end of the 19th century with about 22,000 political prisoners and criminals sent to the island. The indigenous people were confined to reservations, which eventually led to an uprising that united many tribes to launch a war against the French. From 1878 to 1921, the Kanak population fell from 60,000 to 27,000 due to disease brought by the French.