A member of the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation, the Maohi are the original residents of what is now known as French Polynesia. This territory includes Tahiti and 117 other islands. The Maohi form the majority (70%) of the region's 190,000 inhabitants. They are thought to be related to the Maori of New Zealand. Arriving on the islands 2,300 years ago, their culture developed without much outside interference until the 19th century.

In 1842 France seized control of Tahiti from Queen Pomare IV, promising to bring "peace and civilisation" to the islands. In 1880, a colony was established and the islands have been a French possession ever since.

When Algeria won independence from France in 1960, French nuclear testing was moved to the Pacific. In 1963 the construction of the Centre d’Experimentation du Pacifique (CEP) was under way. In 1966 the first of 180 nuclear tests was instigated.

Nuclear testing proved to be the penultimate contentious issue for the Maohi people in the latter half of the 20th century. Rising cancer rates and fears of environmental disaster highlighted the unfair nature of French rule in French Polynesia.

After a three year moratorium, Jacques Chirac ordered testing to resume in 1995. Luckily, France signed the Treaty of Rarotonga in 1996, in which France promised to permanently discontinue nuclear testing and make the Pacific a nuclear-free zone.

Nonetheless there are significant outstanding obstacles to Maohi self-determination. French Polynesia relies on aid from France for its economy, though most of the funds go into French colonial hands. The Maohi haven't been able to kickstart their own economy due to a policy of reliance which furthers French interests in the region.

Today the Maohi continue their struggle for self-determination and independence.


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