New Caledonia is a land of mixed- races and contrasts, the result of a rich and sometimes dramatic history that gives it uniqueness and individuality.
According to archaeological work, the first settlements dating back some 3,000 years, belong to the Melanesian people, descendants of Austronesians, and the first people practicing sailing in known history. A second major wave of migration took place 900 years ago, of Polynesian origin this time.
The history of New Caledonia is also that of great expeditions of the eighteenth century and the discovery of the world. A romantic story tells that in 1774, the navigator James Cook, on his way to New Zealand aboard his ship "Resolution", saw the Grande Terre. He named his discovery New Caledonia – after Caledonia, which was former name for Scotland.
The first meeting between Kanak and Europeans took place in September of that year, when Cook and his crew landed at Balade on the North-East Coast of the Grande Terre. Many explorers, mainly French, ventured offshore and sometimes on the beaches of this mysterious island. Some, like La Perouse, still haunt the collective imagination of Caillou’s residents.
The first settlements were established in 1841. They are the work of missionaries, Anglican Protestants, on one side and Catholic Marist on the other side. On the orders of Napoleon III, and carried out by Counter-Admiral Febvrier Despointes, New Caledonia became a French colony on September 24, 1853.
The first convoy of convicts arrived in 1864 with "transported" "common law" criminals or offenders on board.
Around the same time, the mining saga began. Jules Garnier probably never imagined the scope of his discovery when he found the famous garnierite, the nickel ore, which still gives the country its economic power.
In 1894, the Decree of the Governor Feillet terminated the criminal settlement. This was followed by the first wave of free colonization from the metropolis, but also by vast Indonesian immigration, assuring a labour force for the mines that bloomed in the area. This period was also one of the first Kanak rebellions.
New Caledonia participated in its own way in World War II, becoming one of the major American bases in the Pacific. From 1943, a million American soldiers were stationed on the island. Welcome chewing gum, Coca-Cola and other extravagant products offered by Uncle Sam! ... This leap into modernity left a deep imprint in the culture and identity of New Caledonia.
The Second World War also marked the beginning of the decolonization process. The code of rights of citizenship was abolished in April 1946, and universal suffrage became a reality in 1957.
The separatist challenge was formalized and organized politically motivated by the land issue, and by the wind of decolonization that blew in the region. The tension between independence forces and separatists movements escalated until the crisis of 1984-1988, called "the events". The violence culminated in 1988 with the drama of the cave of Ouvéa.
The dialogue was resumed, with the signing of the Matignon Accords in 1988 between Jacques Lafleur, the loyalist leader, Jean-Marie Tjibaou, the separatist leader, and Michel Rocard, French Prime Minister at the time. Since then, New Caledonia has enjoyed an extraordinary economic boom.
The Year 1998 and the signing of the Noumea Accord, confirmed the desire of different communities to live together, and offered to New Caledonia greater autonomy.
New Caledonia opened a completely new institutional path, making great advances and resolving issues. A self-determination referendum will be organized between 2014 and 2018.