“Under colonization in New Caledonia, the Kanak suffered unlimited exploitation” | EUROtoday

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Research director on the CNRS, Isabelle Merle is a historian of colonization. His work focuses on the historical past of the Pacific and extra notably of New Caledonia. In his first work, Colonial experiences. New Caledonia (1853-1920) (Belin, 1995, republished by Anarcharsis in 2020), she research the “little white people” who got here to settle in New Caledonia on dispossessed land. More not too long ago she has written with Adrian Muckle The Indigenous. Genesis within the French Empire. Practices in New Caledonia (CNRS Editions, 2019).

How does the present disaster in New Caledonia revive the reminiscence of French colonization?

History stays, in New Caledonia, a really delicate topic, the settlement remaining a trauma. Since 1853, when France took possession of this archipelago, till the round despatched by Prime Minister Pierre Messmer in 1972 calling for immigration to cut back the burden of the independence vote, the Kanaks have confronted this logic. They worry discovering themselves diluted, minoritized in their very own nation. However, that is the impact that the growth of the voters for the provincial elections could have, defended by the federal government. By calling into query the precept of a restricted electoral physique, Paris has damaged with the Nouméa settlement [1998] and with the phrase given to the elders.

Can we return to the historical past of New Caledonia? What are you able to inform us about its first inhabitants earlier than the arrival of Europeans?

The Kanak have lived there for 3 thousand years. Their ancestors, initially from South-East Asia, arrived by means of immigration from island to island. New Caledonia is a Melanesian nation, like Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, and partly the Fiji Islands. Maritime commerce nonetheless existed when the British navigator James Cook landed on Grande Terre in 1774. According to archaeologists' estimates, some 100,000 individuals then lived on this archipelago. The Kanak are a individuals of horticulturists with their gardens. Which leads them to be very rooted, very established in a single place, but additionally cellular, shifting in accordance with the fallow durations.

Also learn the archives | New Caledonia by means of 17 articles taken from the archives of “Le Monde”

The arrival of the primary Europeans, nevertheless, destabilized this world. As within the Americas, they convey with them ailments and trigger an epidemiological shock which ends up in a speedy fall within the indigenous inhabitants.

How did France come to take possession of New Caledonia?

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