Located in the Pacific Ocean, Bora Bora is a small island apart of the Society Islands in French Polynesia, just northwest of Tahiti. According to a 2007 census, Bora Bora is the home to roughly 8,800 people, with the majority of its inhabitants being of Polynesian decent (World Atlas). The webpage Encyclopedia Britannica says, “It is formed from two volcanic peaks rising to 2,385 feet (727 metres) and 2,169 feet (661 metres) and dropping abruptly to the lagoon. Bora-Bora is one of the centres of the tourist trade in French Polynesia”. Although a popular tourist destination, Bora Bora has more to offer than it seems, its deep roots date back farther than the early 18th century, filling the island with a rich history, unique social and political events, and literature.
Although unknown by many today, Bora Bora offers an interesting history unique to its island. Prior to European arrival in French Polynesia, Bora Bora had a history and culture of its own. According to the webpage World Atlas, “The island’s ancient name of Vava’u suggests the original inhabitants of this 7-million-year old island arrived from Tonga, and interestingly, there is no “B”, in the local Tahitian language, so its actual name is Pora Pora, meaning “first born”. The tales of Bora Bora’s traditions suggests that there is significance behind its name. It is believed the god Taaroa fished the islands from the sea with Bora Bora being the first after Raiatea. Many believe the pronunciation “Bora Bora” began when Captain Cook arrived to the island.
A webpage titled Maitai Sharing Island Warmth writes, “Historians Pauline Cash Sunday, April 9, 2017 at 9: 50: 26 PM Hawaii-Aleutian Standard Time 08: 6d: 41: b8: d5: 0a 6 believe that Bora Bora was uninhabited up until the ninth century, until the arrival of Polynesian voyagers who first crossed the Teavanui pass, the only point of passage in the immense barrier reef that surrounds the island”. However, Bora Bora wasn’t seen by European explorers until the 18th century. The webpage Encyclopedia Britannica claims, “Bora-Bora was sighted by Dutch admiral Jacob Roggeveen in 1722”. This is the first documented European sighting of Bora Bora. Following Roggeveen’s sighting, Captain James Cook of Britain was the first documented European to land on the shores of Bora Bora. The website Lonely Planet suggests, “James Cook sighted Bora Bora in 1769”. Protestant Missionaries began venturing to Bora Bora in the late 1700s with the hopes of converting the natives to Christianity. The website Tahiti Nui Travel writes, “The first Missionaries accosted at the Venus Pointe in the district of Mahina in Tahiti, on March 5th 1797 on board the Duff”. Similar to the Missionaries in old Hawai’i, Missionaries often disregarded all of Bora Bora’s religious and cultural practices. For example, the site One Bora Bora states, “The missionaries destroyed many of Bora Bora’s marae (stone temples), encouraging the locals to reject their beliefs and convert to Christianity”.
In the 19th century France gained control over French Polynesia. The webpage Sea Semester states, “French Polynesia, a massive array of high islands and atolls consisting of the Society Islands, Tuamotus, Marquesas, Gambier and Austral Islands, was made a protectorate in 1842, conquered in 1847 and officially annexed in 1880. It remains in French hands today and has become largely dependent on metropolitan France for economic stability”.
Pauline Cash Sunday, April 9, 2017 at 9: 50: 26 PM Hawaii-Aleutian Standard Time 08: 6d: 41: b8: d5: 0a 7 According to BBC News, In the 1940s, French Polynesia gained its “overseas country” status. The website The Diplomat states, “France labeled French Polynesia an “overseas country inside the Republic”, endowing it with some autonomy including authority over health, town planning and the environment, while Paris continues to control its justice, education, security, public order, currency, defense and foreign policy”.
If we jump forward in history to World War II, we see the key role Bora Bora played to the United States. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the United States used Bora Bora as a military base to store military equipment and to house U.S. soldiers. Lonely Planet states, “During WWII a US supply base was established here, prompted by the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941. From early 1942 to mid-1946 Operation Bobcat transformed the island and, at its peak, up to 6000 men were stationed on Bora Bora”. Luckily, during the time period Bora Bora never saw war, yet this event shows how foreigners played a role in life on Bora Bora.
Despite the multitude of problems Bora Bora encountered with the arrival of European settlers, Christian missionaries, and the effects of World War II, modern-day Bora Bora has managed to maintain its culture. An article titled “Tahitian Culture” states, “Over a hundred years later, many islanders maintain these Christian beliefs, but there has also been a resurgence in the celebration of indigenous culture, including dance”. Similar to the Native Hawaiians, natives to Bora Bora use cultural dances in all aspects of life including, celebrations, war, and to worship the gods.