Yet the descendants of the deported followers of the Commune are now among the 54,000 whites on New Caledonia who vote rightist, oppose any form of independence, and show their disdain, almost every night on French television, for the native Kanakas.
The modern story of the Kanakas is a familiar one in the Third World, of a tribal people caught between the pull of their tradition and all the pressures of modernization. The rich nickel deposits brought even more whites to New Caledonia, along with many other people from Asia and the South Pacific. The Asians and Polynesians now total 28,000.
As the Kanakas strove to become more and more like whites, a reaction set in, particularly among leaders like Jean-Marie Tjibaou, a former Catholic priest who now leads the Kanaka independence movement. Kanakas were urged to go back to their roots, especially their traditional feeling that they belong to the land, that they had a mystical attachment to it. As they felt this, they also realized that they were now outnumbered in their own land.