Territory Day is one of the biggest holidays on the French Pacific Island collectivity of Wallis and Futuna. It rivals Bastille Day in the degree of intensity with which it is observed each year.
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Territory Day in Wallis and Futuna comes on 29 July and commemorates the day in 1961 when these islands became an overseas territory of France. Now, France had controlled the islands from much earlier, but the gaining of this official status was both symbolic of affectionate unity with faraway France and enabled certain political benefits. In 2003, territory status was upgraded to “collectivity” status, but the name “Territory Day” has remained unchanged.
Wallis and Futuna have long been the homeland of Polynesians. Various European explorers made contact with the islands, but the French were the first to settle there and create a colony. They also introduced the Roman Catholic faith.
By 1888, local chieftains of Wallis and Futuna had enabled the peaceful creation of a French protectorate there. For a time, the islands were merged with New Caledonia, but in 1917, they gained partially separate status. In 1959, the people voted to become fully separate from New Caledonia but still remain under French rule.
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