Tahiti Atlas Projects

Crucial to understanding Tahiti is to recognize the ongoing struggle for cultural and political identity on one side, and the exotic representations of the people and their island for purposes of economic gain on the other. 

The island of Tahiti rises dramatically from the South Pacific in lush, mountainous ridges; Mount Orohena, at more than two kilometers, is the highest in Polynesia.  A wide flat coastal plain has allowed for enormous development, especially since the 1960s, when the institution of a nuclear testing program brought tens of thousands of French immigrants to the island and began a dramatic demographic shift of the indigenous population from rural areas and outer islands to the growing urban areas around Papeete, the capital of French Polynesia.  The starting destination of our SPICE cruise, Tahiti proved a rich place to begin a discussion of issues of sustainability, and we were challenged to think about our topic by our visiting faculty members Dr. Keitapu Maamaatuaiahutapu and Paul Moohono Niva, and by Oscar Temaru, who was then mayor of Fa’a, but has since been elected President of what he calls "French-occupied Polynesia."