Tahiti — The Society Islands
INTERESTING FACTS: Tahiti is a French territory and is included with five groups of islands called French Polynesia. Tahiti is home to the fast hip-shaking dance called the tamure, which is sometimes mistaken for the Hawaiian hula.
LOCATION: About half way between South America and Australia in the central South Pacific. It is the largest island of the Windward Group of the Society Islands in French Polynesia. Area: 402 square miles.
AREA: 402 square miles.
POPULATION: 131,309. About 78% are Polynesian.
DISCOVERED: The original Tahitians were Polynesians from another of the Society Islands, Raiatea. The Spanish probably discovered Tahiti in the 17th century. In 1767, Captain Samuel Wallis of the British navy visited Tahiti (then usually called Otaheite) and named it King George III Island. Louis-Antoine de Bougainville subsequently visited the island in 1768 and claimed it for France. Later visitors include Captain James Cook (1769), who bestowed the name "Society Islands" in honor of the Royal Society which sent him there. William Bligh also visited in the HMS Bounty in 1788.
GOVERNMENT: The island is now part of the iles du Vent circonscription ("circumscription") within the self-governing overseas territory of French Polynesia. It has been under French rule since 1842.
LANGUAGES: French and Tahitian