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Map Courtesy CIA World Factbook

Tuvalu is an island nation located in the Pacific Ocean midway between Hawaii and Australia. Its name means "Eight Standing Together" in Tuvaluan. With the exception of tiny Vatican City, it is the independent nation with the fewest inhabitants. Due to their low elevation (5 meters, or 14 feet maximum), the islands that make up this nation are threatened by any future sea level rise. The population may evacuate during the next decades to New Zealand, or Niue, a small Pacific island (independent but associated with New Zealand) that isn't threatened by sea level rise, but does have decreasing population.

Tuvaluans are a Polynesian people who are estimated to have settled the islands around 2,000 years ago. During pre-contact times, there was frequent canoe voyaging between the nearer islands.

Tuvalu was first sighted by Europeans in 1568 with the arrival of Alvaro de Mendaña y Neyra from Spain, who encountered the island of Nui but was unable to land. No other Europeans turned up again until the late 1700s, when further European explorers reached the area. By the early 1800s, whalers were in the Pacific, though visiting Tuvalu only infrequently due to the difficulties of landing ships on the atoll, and no settlements were established by them. Peruvian slave raiders ("blackbirders") combed the Pacific between 1862 and 1864 and Tuvalu was one of the hardest-hit Pacific island groups with over 400 people taken from Funafuti and Nukulaelae, none of whom returned. In 1865, the London Missionary Society, Protestant congregationalists, began their process of evangelization of Tuvalu, and conversion to Christianity was complete by the 1920s. Also in the late 1800s, European traders began to live on the islands hoping to profit from local resources. Europeans brought diseases new to the Pacific which caused many deaths in Tuvalu.

In 1892, the islands became part of the British protectorate of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands, with Tuvalu being called the Ellice Islands. The protectorate became a colony in 1915. In 1943 during World War II, Tuvalu was selected as an operations base for Allied forces battling the Japanese in the Pacific. Thousands of marines were stationed there until December 1945. In 1974, ethnic differences within the colony caused the Polynesians of the Ellice Islands to vote for separation from the Micronesians of the Gilbert Islands (later Kiribati). The following year, the Ellice Islands became the separate British colony of Tuvalu. Independence was granted in 1978. Tuvalu Independence Day is celebrated on the 1st of October.

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Tuvalu".